I startle easily. I'm the kind of person you can sneak up on without even trying. Maybe living alone for the first half of my twenties rendered me forever incapable of dwelling normally amongst other humans. Whatever the reason, even though intellectually I know Adam lives here and is going to move around the house occasionally in the course of that living, every now and then he inadvertently scares the bejesus out of me.
It's weird—the corner of my brain that recognizes logic operates just fine. It can process external stimuli and come to reasonable conclusions; for example, if there is a sudden sound of a person approaching, Logical Brain Corner knows that it's exponentially more likely to be my husband who lives here in the house with me than an ax murderer rapist fanged alien monster come to collect my teeth as trophies of the hunt. The problem is, Logical Brain Corner is much quieter than Threatened Feral Animal Section, which isn't good for much except loudly screaming “DANGER! DANGER!” and making siren noises ricochet around in my skull cavity.
It's hard to behave rationally when my brain alarms are going off, so when Adam surprises me with his presence, I never do anything that would save me in the event of an actual attack. I make a terribly humiliating whimpering noise through my mouth and run away. And not even towards a viable exit, either. Last time it happened, it was the middle of the night and I was headed to the bathroom, not knowing Adam was already in there, and when his disembodied voice came from in front of me instead of behind me, I turned tail and literally dove back into bed. Because no intruder could find me under the covers? I don't know. I have no explanation for my behavior. But I know now that in a fight or flight situation, I'm firmly on the side of flight, and that doesn't seem like something I should feel super proud of.
(I assumed the bathroom door was closed and that at least Adam hadn't witnessed my sizeable pants-less (because who sleeps with pants on?) rump leaping to safety, but when I asked him later, he admitted the door was open and he saw everything. The fact that he didn't laugh? That's love, man.)
Anyway, books. That's why we're here, right? I bring up my jumpy nature and resultant nighttime flight of shame because John Searles's Help For the Haunted is a ghost story that may well put you a bit on edge. The narrator is Sylvie, a teenage girl whose parents specialize in helping people troubled by ghosts and spirits. That is, until one night when they're summoned to a church by Sylvie's older sister, Rose, and murdered in cold blood. Sylvie is the key witness and her testimony has already put one of her parents' former clients behind bars to await trial. However, there are things Sylvie doesn't understand about her parents' practice, and Rose is hiding her own secrets behind increasingly erratic and negligent behavior.
This is a quick, fun read with just the right amount of suspense. It may make you a little shivery if you read it at night. Even if the logical corner of your brain knows that dolls can't be possessed by demons and girls who act out don't need exorcisms, the feral animal part of your brain may raise an alert anyway. Just stay under the covers and you'll be safe.