Emily Ruth Fleischer was eleven years old in the year 1976 when her already troubled life began to spiral even more out of control. Her father was extremely abusive in just about every way imaginable to her, her three siblings, and her mother. In order to keep all the dark, family secrets hidden, the Fleischer children were homeschooled by their mother and had almost no contact with anyone from the outside world.
Emily’s father’s terrible abuse took a turn for the worse one night when she heard her little brother Eric scream from the bedroom he shared with their older brother Johnny. The next day she was told there was a terrible accident in the night and he had died. They held a funeral for him and buried his body, wrapped in a sheet, in the backyard.
Things only got worse from there. Emily’s father forced her and her older brother to help him kidnap a little girl and her mother from the park. Then he kept them in their barn to rape and torture until he killed them. When a police officer came around asking questions, Emily’s father killed him too.
With things spiraling so out of control and puberty striking its evil period on her, Emily decided she couldn’t take it anymore and told her mother about the sexual abuse they all suffered at the hands of their father. Her mother called her a lying bitch and told Emily’s father what his daughter had accused him of.
Unable to cope with the things she was faced with on her own anymore, Emily snaps and allows another personality, Julie, to take over her mind. She kills her father and shortly after, kills her mother too. Then she gives birth to her father’s or brother’s baby, she’s not entirely sure which. The baby is born with defects and Julie takes care of “the problem” for Emily.
With both of her parents now dead, Emily’s alter personality takes it upon herself to go out and try to find a job. She ends up meeting Rufus, a worker from the Freak Show at the fairs and circuses. They fall in love, one thing leads to another, and her older brother Johnny is murdered by the pair.
Not wanting to live with this new version of her older sister or this new creep she has brought into their lives, Emily’s younger sister Caroline hangs herself in the tree outside. She felt like everyone in the world who ever loved her was gone and she didn’t want to live anymore.
With the rest of the Fleischer family gone, Emily’s alter personality Julie takes off with Rufus and his family to work the Freak Shows. Sometime after they are married, Rufus and Julie learn that they share the same father. By this point, they are already in love and feel like there is no going back.
After about a year of trying to get pregnant unsuccessfully, Rufus and Julie come up with a plan to get the baby that they’d been wanting so badly. At one of their freak shows during the state fair, they kidnap a teenage girl named Autumn and her little brother Sam. With Sam not really being the target, they throw him from their camper after Rufus bites off his finger. Rufus repeatedly rapes Autumn until they learn that she is pregnant with his child.
When Autumn gives birth, Emily is finally able to take control of her own mind from Julie again. She overpowers Rufus and is able to escape with the camper and a quickly fading Autumn and her baby. Emily brings Autumn and the baby directly to the nearest hospital, where Autumn later dies and the baby is taken in by Autumn’s parents. They name him Sam, after Autumn’s younger brother, just as she had wished.
We reenter Autumn’s son Sam’s life in his mid-thirties. He’s left the old Fleischer property by an Aunt Emily that he’s never met or heard of because he never knew anything about his father’s family except for what his father did to his mother. He brings his wife and daughter to look at the property with him, just to decide if it’s something that they want to even consider keeping or if they are just going to sell it. They all fall in love with it immediately and decide that this is meant to be their home.
Deep in the woods across the road lives their only neighbor Chris. He comes over often to offer his help, etc. Sam’s uncle and namesake live with Sam and his wife and don’t trust Chris one bit. But after Sam’s grandparents, the people who raised him were run off the road one night on the way home from dinner at the old Fleischer place, it seems that they need Chris’ help to figure out what happened. Chris just happened to be a State Trooper.
Things take a turn for the worse when Sam’s daughter, Layla and Uncle Sam disappear. Sam and his wife discover that his uncle isn’t the doting and loving man he seemed to be. He’d been working with a ring of child traffickers and felt nothing but hate and contempt for his sister’s son. Chris made the discovery with the help of his mother, Emily, who got a job with the FBI and realized that she was pregnant with him shortly after escaping from Julie and Rufus.
With all the lies and deceit now out in the open, Sam, his wife Amanda, their daughter Layla, Chris, and Emily decide it’s time for some healing. Sam and Amanda open a farm for abused kids and animals to come to heal and Emily retires from the FBI to help run it. All seemed finally as close to perfect as could be expected in each of their lives until they learn once again that there is no escape if your family were Fleischer’s and were truly Disturbed.
She’s running in the woods near my house. I can see her, but I can’t seem to catch up to her. They’re after her and I have to get to her before they do. Or before Julie does.
“Uncle Chris! Where are you?! I can’t see you!”
She can’t seem to hear me, but I can hear her. Julie’s after her with an ax and the ghosts keep leading her farther away from me. The cramp in my side from running as fast as I can for so long is excruciating.
Suddenly I’m falling and hitting my head on something cold and hard. The already dark woods are getting darker and quickly fading along with the rest of my vision.
When I wake, my vision is blurry but I can clearly see Julia hacking away at Layla with her ax. Trying hard to get up, my head pounds and my vision clouds again. My voice comes out as a croak as I try to scream at Julia to stop. Lying back on the moist ground, I begin to sob.
Everything seems so real, including my full-body grief. That must be what wakes me from my terrible nightmare. I’m drenched in sweat and still sobbing uncontrollably.
After collecting my emotions, I stand from the bed and look at the clock on my wall. Five in the morning. It’s kind of early to be up for the day, but nothing I’m not used to.
Good thing Mom’s room isn’t that close to mine. She doesn’t have to be up for work at ‘Summer’s Play, Autumn’s Rest’ for another few hours if she even has to work today. I forgot to ask last night and she never said.
Ugh, that dream was so vivid. It’ll probably stick with me the whole day now. I guess it’s time to make the coffee.
Making my way into the kitchen, I’m careful not to make any noise. Mom doesn’t usually sleep very well herself and I try hard not to add to that. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at getting through my morning routine without disturbing her.
After I get the coffee brewing for Mom and some water in the kettle for me, I’ll jump in the shower to wash this nasty funk away. By the time I’m done, it should be around six, at least. That will leave enough time for the water to heat back up for her shower.
Thinking about my nightmare, I tell myself that it’s just because of everything we’d all just been through. It makes sense since I was so afraid we wouldn’t find Layla in time after we realized she was kidnapped by Sam’s uncle, a man he had grown up with and was almost like a brother to. And with my job with the troopers, I had felt like the outcome was all up to me.
But why were the ghosts and Julie there? That part made no sense to me. Julie hasn’t come around for quite a while and Layla never met her, as far as I’m aware.
Shaking the negative thoughts from my mind, I finish up what I’m doing. With the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans now in the air, I press the ‘brew’ button on the machine. It starts its gurgling as I head back to my room for my towel and clothes. Even though I don’t drink the stuff myself, I love the way it smells.
Now time for a nice, hot shower. I haven’t felt like I needed a shower this bad in a while. I should probably wash my bedding too, with all the sweating I did.
Disturbed. That’s the word that everyone in school used to use to describe me. Even the teachers. Maybe I was a little messed up. Maybe I still am. Who knows?
Not being raised like most of the other kids my age, I was never really quite sure what a normal boy was supposed to act or be like. Raised only by my mom, I had never met my father. Until the day I ambushed him and, later, killed him. Nothing in my life until that point had felt as satisfying as ending that dirt bag’s life.
For my entire childhood and adolescence, my mother taught me to hide my true identity, stressing the importance of nobody finding out who either of us really was. That was simple enough for me. I had really only ever been the kid my mother expected others to see.
Except for the ghosts. Only once did I ever make the mistake of telling anyone about the dead people I see and talk to. I’m thirty-eight years old and still haven’t managed to live down all the rumors that spread because of my trust in someone I thought was my best friend at the time.
At some point I should probably tell my half-brother, Sam, about some of the ghosts, since my niece can see them too and most of them live in and around his house. Their house. The old Fleischer home.
Maybe that’s why the ghosts were in my nightmare. Their presence is easy enough to explain. Not every ghost is a good soul, and that may be eating at me a little bit too, the thought of Layla coming into contact with one of the not-so-nice spirits.
I guess, after getting started here, I do have every reason to be a little disturbed if I am. But this has all just been my life. This is all I have ever known. To me, I’m normal.
Well, normal except for the fact that I’m gay, I suppose. When I first told my mom, she was so upset. She’s still worried that I’ll go to Hell for going against God’s word.
Personally, I think that’s a load of crap. Even though my mother made me go to church every Sunday and believes so strongly in God herself, I don’t really believe in God and never have. I mean maybe, I know there’s something bigger out there, some force stronger than any of us. But maybe there’s not. I’m not convinced either way.
I think essentially, I’m a good person. I’ve worked hard my whole life to do what’s right and to do my part to uphold the law. Sometimes good people do bad things, I know that too.
In my life, so far, I can’t count the number of times I’ve done things that I’m not very proud of. But even in hindsight, the bad things I had to do were unavoidable. Some were more enjoyable than others, but still had to be done.
One thing that has always kept me strong is my mother’s love for me. Ever since I can first remember, she taught me about our family’s past and how to protect myself. She also tried to tell me never to completely trust anyone, including her. Unfortunately, some lessons can only be learned the hard way.
I think I’m at some sort of turning point in my life. I’ve been a State Trooper for much of my adult life now and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. But now that I’ve achieved my biggest goal for my career, I think it might be time to move on.
Sam has actually offered me a position with his company. It’s not a shabby position either. He’s asked me to consider becoming his Construction Supervisor. I have the skills and I’ve always been a hard worker. This may be just the change I need for myself.
Being a State Trooper was a very rewarding job. Now that the demons that haunted my mother and even me have been brought to justice, I’m afraid I may have lost my passion for that role. Catching those “bad guys” was personal and it drove me in a way that can’t easily be replaced.
Construction. Building for the future. Yes, I can see myself really enjoying a supervisor position in this career field.
I’m a pretty basic guy, I would say. I’m a single man, looking for a lover or partner in crime to share life with. A hard worker who enjoys traveling, a huge animal activist. I love old movies and old music. I can easily pull off the State Trooper or construction worker role but love dressing to the nines when I go out or whenever I get the chance. See, pretty simple.
My half-brother seems to be a lot like me, except for the gay part. As far as I know, he can’t see or talk to dead people either. Oh, and he met the love of his life and married her many years ago. Other than those things, we have a lot in common.
Maybe I’m just a tad bit jealous. I think I have good reason to be. But I don’t blame Sam for the things life has handed him while neglecting me. He does deserve everything he has been given, even if some of those things could have just as easily been mine instead.
Am I being too vague? The old Fleischer house should have been mine, not his. My mother grew up there, not his.
The family history belongs with me. Sam didn’t want anything to do with any of it. I’m the one who helped to finally put an end to the evil that started in that house. My mother should have gifted the property to me, not some nephew who wanted nothing to do with her.
But it is what it is, I guess. No use crying over spilled milk, as they say. Right?
Besides, Sam went through his share of hell growing up and he’s not a bad guy at all. Maybe the old Fleischer place is in the right hands after all. Whether he likes it or not, Sam has Fleischer blood running through him, just as I do.
At least I didn’t end up with all of the problems my mother has. Her issues stem mostly from her messed up childhood, not from anything inherited. Overall, I’d say she’s handled everything amazingly well. Anyone who had been through the things she has in life would be lucky to be as stable as she is.
She’s managed to keep the split personality at bay for many years now. I met her once, the other personality. Julie, her name is. Yes, the same Julie that was in my nightmare. If we’re all lucky, nobody will ever see her again.
Julie is everything that my mother is not, which is probably why my mom’s mind made her up in the first place. During her childhood, she needed somebody strong-minded to take on all of the pain and horrible things that she couldn’t handle anymore. With nobody else in her life at that time fitting that description, my mom’s mind created Julie.
Mom’s anxiety and depression are well-controlled by daily medication. She’s a true inspiration and very strong on her own, but the medication does help her stay above water, so to speak. I’m the only one she has ever let see during her weakest moments. Knowing her history, I’m not sure how she is as level-headed as she is.
All that being said, I think I’m my mother’s biggest fan. She’s been through hell and came back fighting. She’s taught me to be a brave and strong warrior, not wanting me to ever suffer even some of the things that she has been through. Sometimes I feel like I could never measure up to be even half the person that she has been and continues to be.
She’s been an amazing mother, even though she never had the kind of mother that would give anything to protect her and raise her to be the best person she could be. I love her for the person that she is, the adversities she’s overcome in life, and for everything she has ever done for me. She has loved me unconditionally, something that every child deserves.
My niece is very lucky in that respect. She has both her parents around, both seem very well put-together despite the challenges life has put them through, and anyone would be able to tell how much they both love each other and their daughter, just by watching the three of them together for a little bit. I wouldn’t wish anything less for that little girl, or any other kid.
After my nice, long, hot shower, I towel dry and reach for the pair of jeans I planned to wear for the day. Having two weeks of vacation time to use before officially being done with the department is giving me a good opportunity to test the waters as an average civilian before it becomes my normal. My everyday wardrobe won’t be a problem. Jeans and t-shirts are comfortable. I’ll find reasons to still dress up on occasion.
Jeans and t-shirt on, I style my hair and then brush my teeth. Looking in the mirror, I say to my reflection, “Not too shabby. We’ve got this. Let’s get to it.”
Not wanting to keep anything from my half-brother anymore, I figure the sooner I tell him about my seeing ghosts, the better. First though, I need to have a conversation with my niece. Sam and Amanda agreed that I could take her out for some one on one time today, not knowing my motives. I’ll have to figure out something else to do until a more decent hour for a Saturday morning, though.
Their trust, even after everything that has happened, means everything to me. I need to make sure that I won’t be crossing any lines by telling my half-brother about my niece’s secret. Heck, she doesn’t even realize that I know.
But I do. Having the ability myself, it’s unmistakable in her. I also know that it can be both a blessing and a curse at times.
Maybe after I clear the air with each of them about the ghosts, my nightmares will subside. I’m hoping it will help Layla out too, to have her parents aware of her ability. I could be completely wrong though. They could think I’m a lunatic and push me out of their lives forever.
I think it’s time for some tea before deciding anything, at the moment. Grabbing my mug from the cupboard, I set it on the counter. Then I pour the steaming water into the cup and add a herbal tea bag before taking my seat at the small table.
Looking around the kitchen, I realize this house is long overdue for a remodel itself. I know I lied to Sam when we first met and told him I built the house only about a decade ago, but the truth is that my mother had it built when I was just a baby. Maybe I’ll talk to Sam to see how much his company would charge to do the job.
Our house sits pretty far back in the woods, but there’s a shack even further back that’s about a year older than our house. That’s where Mom originally lived when she was pregnant for me and right after she had me. I turned it into a fortress for myself when I was just a kid. Even now, I sometimes go there to really get away. Nobody except my mother and I know about the shack and she hasn’t been there since this house was finished being built. It’s a great place to escape to.
The tea almost burns as it slides over my tongue and down my throat. I close my eyes to really savor the first sip. Aah, just the way I like it.
Hmm, what to do for the next several hours before taking Layla out. What am I going to do with her, for that matter? I can’t very well just drive around with her to talk about the fact that we both can see and talk to ghosts. Sighing, I decide I’d better figure that part out before doing anything else.
Maybe I should tell my mother my secret before talking with my niece today. The idea makes my palms sweat. It’s not a bad idea, and maybe if she happens to have the day off, she can join me and Layla so her parents feel more comfortable about her going with me.
Do I really want to have such a conversation with more than one person today? Especially my mom? It’s been all this time that I’ve kept the secret from her. I don’t know how she’d handle it at this point. Maybe first I’ll find out if she has to work today and go from there.
All these huge thoughts and it’s not even eight in the morning. Besides that, it’s Saturday. I drive myself crazy sometimes. Not me so much, but my overactive brain does.
Just then, Mom walks around the corner from her bedroom, rubbing her eyes. “Morning,” she manages through a yawn.
“Good morning, Mom. How did you sleep?” I take another sip of my herbal goodness while I wait for her answer.
“Not bad at all, actually,” she replies as she reaches for her own mug from the cupboard.
Deciding to get it out of the way, I ask, “What are your plans for the day? Do you have to work over at the farm?”
She pours some coffee into her cup as she answers, “No, not today. I just have a few errands to run in town, but the rest of the day is up in the air. Why, what’s up?”
I take another sip of my tea, more to stall than anything else. Then I take a deep breath before saying, “Well, I was thinking that maybe you could come hang out with Layla and I for a while today. Sam and Amanda said I could take her out to do something fun and it would probably be more comfortable for everyone if you were with me.”
Mom sits across from me at the small table. “Okay, no problem. What do you have planned?”
Readjusting myself in the chair, I try to muster up the courage to tell her what’s on my mind. “Well, there is something that I want to discuss with her, that I’m going to need to tell all of you about.”
She gives me a look, turning her head slightly. Her eyebrows are furrowed and her lip has thinned out. It’s a tiny bit of curiosity mixed in with a whole lot of concern. I know her expressions better than my own at this point. She doesn’t say anything though.
I should have told her years ago, but the timing never seemed right. Plus I didn’t want to upset her. She always worried so much about every little thing, this detail could have sent her over the edge.
After a heavy sigh, I look at the steam that’s rolling off my drink and say, “There’s something I should have told you a long time ago, but didn’t.” Not wanting her to feel hurt or offended, I add, “And I didn’t purposely keep it from you, I just didn’t want you to worry any more about me than you already did.”
Mom takes my hand in her much smaller, thinner hand and says, “You know you can always talk to me about anything. I’ve always told you that, Chris. I love you no matter what.”
“I know, Mom. But this… what I’m about to tell you is so crazy. But Layla is going through the same thing and her parents need to know. That’s what I want to talk to her about today. I need to let her know that… Mom, I can see and talk to ghosts and so can Layla.”
Pausing to give her time to absorb my words, I pull my hand away to take another drink from my mug. She sits back, the shock from what I’ve told her written all over her face. She looks like she wants to speak, but no words are coming out.
To keep the conversation moving, I continue, “I need to let Layla know that I can see the ghosts too, so she knows that she’s not alone or a freak.”
Mom looks directly at me at this point and says, “Oh Chris, I hope you know that you aren’t a… well, that.”
Taking her hand back in mine, I answer, “Yes, I know. Well, most of the time I know. As a kid it was harder. I’m a grown man now. That’s why I need to talk to Layla. And that’s why Sam and Amanda should know. The first ghost I ever met was one from the old Fleischer place. There are a lot of them there and not all of them are good.”
Mom looks horrified. I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting, although I didn’t have much time to think about what her reaction would possibly be before telling her.
Finally she speaks. “Who?”
“Who what,” I ask.
“And when? What ghosts have you seen over there?”
I can tell she’s starting to freak out and I’m going to try my best to comfort her by answering any questions she might have. First, I have to admit to her that I broke one of the biggest rules she had for me as a kid. Boy, I’m not going to win any brownie points with her today.
“I used to sneak over to the old Fleischer place when you were at work. I know you always told me not to and I did listen for a few years, but then I got curious and lonely. One day I made my way to the road and I thought I saw kids playing in the yard over there, so I looked both ways like you taught me to make sure there were no vehicles coming, and I crossed the road. I’m sorry, Mom. I just wanted someone to play with.”
Mom frowns at my admission but says, “That was a long time ago and I never should have left you alone at such a young age. You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt or that your father didn’t find you, though. I had no choice, nobody I trusted enough to ask to babysit you. But everything turned out well, including you.” She smiles at me proudly. “So, who were the kids you saw playing in the yard? Were they ghosts?”
Wrapping my hands around my warm cup of tea, I tell her, “If I saw anyone playing, they were gone by the time I got that far down the driveway. Maybe I was just seeing things. I looked all over that property, but didn’t find anybody. Then I went down by the creek and I saw what looked like a teenaged boy, but I could see right through him. That was Johnny, your big brother. I must have been about seven at the time. I had seen ghosts before then, but only in passing or when I was with somebody else. Johnny warned me about the others that were there, all of them. All their spirits are still there, all the people who have died there.”
Mom is starting to tear up. She’s not an outwardly emotional person very often, so I know my mention of her murdered brother took her off guard. “He taught me how to fish and we fished together a lot after that, Johnny and I. He was happy, Mom.”
She looks at me through watery eyes and smiles weakly. “That’s good to hear. But how do you know Layla sees them too?”
This one is an easy question to answer. “She tenses up a little whenever one of the ghosts comes near when there are other people in the room with her. Plus, I’ve caught her talking to one of them. I pretended like I thought she was playing.”
Mom takes a deep breath and brushes lightly at her eyes. “Who was she talking to?”
I didn’t want to answer that question, that’s why I left the name out to begin with. Now that she’s asked me directly, I don’t want to lie. “It was Caroline.”
This time Mom can’t keep the tears from falling. She sobs once and then, even while crying, asks, “Did she seem okay? Did Caroline seem happy?”
“Yes, she did, Mom.” I twist the truth a little. Caroline wasn’t happy at the time. She was kind of melancholy and just asking Layla about what her life was like. I have seen her happy at times though, so I’m not completely lying.
Mom pulls herself together and then says, “Well, it looks like we have a very important discussion we need to have with Layla. I just hope Sam and Amanda won’t get mad when they find out we went behind their backs to talk to her about it. I’m going to go shower.”
Nodding at my mother, I lean back in my chair and loosely cross my legs. It’s going to be a long day. At least my mother seemed to handle the news pretty well, considering.
Now to figure out what to do with Layla while we’re out. Maybe we’ll buy some lunch from the sub shop and have a picnic in the park in town. I love it out here in the country, but every now and then it’s nice to spend some quality time in town too. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good idea, as long as Mom and Layla both agree to it.
“So, I was thinking we’d go into town to get some lunch and take it to the park for a picnic. How does that sound, Layla?” I glance in my rearview mirror to catch her reaction.
She smiles as she agrees. “I haven’t been to the park in forever. There’s so much to do at the house now, we don’t really go that many places anymore.”
Mom chimes in from the passenger seat, “You guys have really turned that place into something special. You should feel really proud of everything you did to help.”
My beautiful niece smiles again, this time a shy, proud smile. We pull into the sub shop, grab some subs, sodas, and chips, and then head to the park. Noticing my mother tense up a little, I suddenly remember that this is the same park her father made her help kidnap a girl and her mother from. “Shit, Mom.” Layla giggles at my use of the swear word and I ignore her. “I’m sorry. We can go someplace else.”
Mom would never bring me to this park as a child. Of course, for the longest time we didn’t have a car so going anywhere we didn’t really need to was out of the question. Mom got rides from a woman at work and I rode the bus to school. I think I was about ten years old when Mom got her first car.
But not having a vehicle wasn’t the biggest reason we never came to this park. The memory of her father bringing her and her older brother Johnny to this same park to kidnap a little girl and her mother kept her away. Mom was always honest with me about the bad things that had happened in her life, in hopes that it would make me a more cautious person. It worked and her experiences were the main reason I joined the police force as an adult. I wanted to help right the wrongs of the world.
Plastering a smile on her face, my mom says, “No, that’s okay. This will be good for me.”
“Are you sure?” I whisper to her.
“Come on, Layla. We’re going to have a good time, aren’t we,” my mom insists as she gets out of the car.
Layla and I follow suit and I grab the bags that are holding our lunch. Mom was smart and brought her throw blanket from the house for us to sit on. Layla skips ahead before stopping at a patch of grass that’s shaded by a tree. She yells back to us, “Can we sit here, in the shade?”
“That’s a great spot,” my mom calls back.
“Hey, I’m really sorry. I forgot all about what happened to you here,” I say as I look over at my mom.
She’s looking at her feet as she smiles and replies, “It’s fine, really. That was a long time ago and this place looks totally different now. Let’s just get your little chat out of the way and try to have a good time with that little girl.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I agree as we reach the spot that Layla designated for our picnic. Mom lays out the blanket and Layla helps.
Once we’re all seated as comfortably as we can be, I start handing out the subs. Half a tuna on white and a root beer for Layla, an Italian sub with all the fixings on white with a cola for Mom, and a roast beef with provolone and sweet peppers on a parmesan Italian roll and a Pepsi for me. There’s also a bag of regular potato chips and French onion dip that I place in the middle of the blanket for all of us to share. Suddenly, I’m starving.
After a few bites to calm my overactive taste buds, I look at my mother, wondering if now would be a good time to begin to have that talk with my niece. She nods and gives me a quick smile.