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In four ghost stories,...
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In four ghost stories, set in nineteenth century Concord, Massachusetts, each of the March sisters has a supernatural encounter.
Meg wasn't sure whether it was the dull roar of thunder that woke her or the angry flash of lightning. But awaken she did. She listened for the comforting chatter downstairs of her parents and Hannah, the family housekeeper, but there was none. So she determined that they must already be asleep. It had to be the middle of the night.
Glancing over to the bed by the other wall, Meg saw her sister Jo, curled up and breathing deeply. Nothing woke Jo. Especially not a thunderstorm.
Another bolt of lightning lit up the room. For one terrifying second Meg could see everything as though it were daylight, except this light was hot and white and nearly blinding. It was followed by a roar of thunder so loud that Meg couldn't understand how anyone could sleep through it. She peeked over at Jo. The sky, no longer pitch black but almost purple from the rain clouds, cast a strange light onto her sister's face.
Can nothing wake Jo up? Meg asked herself as she huddled in her bed, dreading the next loud scream of thunder. When it came, she shook. She drew the covers over her head, but the flashes of lightning were so harsh and bright, not even a blanket could protect her eyes.
Meg counted between the lightning and the thunder. Her father had taught her that the longer the time between the two, the farther away the lightning was. The first few times, she counted as high as ten. But then they grew closer and closer together, and the thunder gained in intensity.
When a clap of thunder sounded at almost the exact same moment as the lightning flash, Meg screamed. No one heard her, though. Not even Jo.
"Jo," Meg whispered, fully aware thatif Jo could sleep through a thunderstorm, she was unlikely to wake up at the sound of her whispered name. "Jo?"
Another bolt of lightning was followed by an explosion of thunder. Meg couldn't stand it anymore. She raced from her bed and jumped onto Jo's.
"Jo," she said, "wake up."
Perhaps it was the thunder, perhaps it was Meg's leaping onto her bed, or maybe it was the shove that Meg gave her, but Jo finally opened her eyes. "Wha . . . ," she muttered.
"I want to sleep in your bed," Meg whispered. "Just go back to sleep."
"I am asleep," Jo said, but then she opened her eyes fully and looked at her sister. "Thunderstorm, hmm?" she said.
"I simply got lonely," Meg said, but the lightning and thunder made her shake with fear.
Jo laughed. "You're a bigger baby than Amy sometimes," she said, referring to the youngest of their sisters. "Thunder and lightning don't bother her."
"Amy's too young to know what to be scared of," Meg said.
"I must still be asleep," Jo said. "I have no idea what you just said."
"It doesn't matter," Meg replied. "Just go back to sleep."
"With you shaking and screaming?" Jo asked, rubbing her eyes and sitting up in bed. "How am I supposed to sleep through that?"
Meg thought about remarking that Jo had slept through just that and more, but there was no point. Instead she curled up in a ball and tried to pretend a thunderstorm wasn't right outside her window.
"There's nothing to be scared of," Jo said. "It's just a part of nature. Snowstorms are a part of nature, and you're not scared of them, are you, Meg?"
"Snowstorms are quiet," Meg mumbled. "They don't flash about."
"Snowstorms can so be noisy when the wind howls," Jo said. "And the white of the snow can be blinding as well. But you love snowstorms, Meg. Marmee is always calling you in from one, and you stay outside as long as you can, dancing away and trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue."
There was another flash of lightning. Meg closed her eyes and counted again. This time she reached the number six before the sound of the thunder filled the night. Good. The storm must be passing, she thought. But the next lightning flash was so bright that she quickly got under the covers with Jo.
"I don't see why there has to be thunder and lightning," Meg said. "I think the world would be just as fine a place without them."
"Oh, no," said Jo. "Think how hot it was yesterday, and how sticky. The storm will clear the air and make it bright and comfortable again."
"In that case, a snowstorm would do just as well," said Meg.
Jo laughed. "A snowstorm in August," she replied. "That truly would be frightening."
"I'm not really afraid of thunder and lightning," Meg said, pulling the covers up to her chin. "It's just that they startle me so."
"Of course," Jo said. "No one likes to be startled. Except perhaps in one of my plays. Remember how the audience never expected the Count of Burgundy to reappear after he had seemingly drowned in the previous act?"
Another burst of lightning lit the sky. This time Meg counted to twelve. The storm was definitely moving away, off to bother someone else.
"I think maybe I'll go back to my own bed," Meg said. "I'll sleep better there."
"I'll miss you," Jo said.
Meg smiled. She got out from under Jo's covers and crossed the three feet to her own bed. The next flash of lightning hardly even lit up the room, and the thunder sounded many miles away.
Jo fell back asleep almost immediately. It took Meg a little bit longer.