We Were Ghosts
Five friends find themselves on the opposite side of the Ouija board. Being dead is all fun and games when you’re the scary ghost but ask yourself this, what are the dead frightened of? Read along the chapters and find out exactly what goes bump in the night.
Chapter one: We were gone.
The blaring of the horn came racing towards us. So fast that even turning our heads wasn’t quick enough to see it. It was intolerably loud, someone screeching right in your ear so heavy that your head felt like it would burst from the inside out. I don’t remember much of it, not the tone or the look or the feel of it but the pain, the pain of that horn was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was as though the wind was knocked out of you so much so that you couldn’t even scream. It felt like falling, you know that feeling you have when you are just teetering on the edge of sleep but you jolt awake in case you slide off the bed. Well it was like that but then it wasn’t, you seem to tip but never land, we never jolted awake or fell of the edges of our beds we never landed. The world and everything in it merged and faded. For a moment all was dark. For a split atom of a second the world in all its glory was perfect. We had not fallen and the horn had not hit us but there was no we there was only I.
Then came the light. After that perfect darkness and that perfect world came a blinding light. Or at least, that’s what should have come next. There was no light, there were no doctors or birds fussing about over me. There was nothing. My eyes were open but I couldn’t see. My friends, I could feel around me but I couldn’t touch them. Oddly none of that worried or scared me. It was like the logic of dreams where a cow playing ode to joy on a stack of plates while you and your mates run along your old school’s corridors to get away from the animatronics from Jurassic park is totally normal. This place of nothing and these friends I don’t even remember being able to touch was all I could remember now. The world before was the dream but the more I tried to remember it the more the two blurred.
“Where are you?” I called out. I screamed. I screamed again. The words were easily thought, not so easily spoken. Have you ever tried to shout in a dream? Have you ever tried to shout and had nothing come out? If you haven’t count your blessings if you have, you know the panic and fear that set in. Your primal state comes through and even in the most sullen of situations you prepare to fight whatever it is that’s casting that shadow on your back.
“Nimue! Nimue where are you?” Her voice, I knew her voice. How could I have forgotten her? How? She was there. I reasoned with myself. But then she was gone she never existed. She just existed. No she didn’t she always existed. The logic of dreams is that anything is logical. Unlike the Vulcan mind the dream is where a person can both leave existence and yet fully exist both at the same time.
“Diary, is that you? Where are you? Put your arms out I can’t find you!” Frantically I started to fumble my way through a world that I couldn’t see. Each step forward was uneasy. The floor seemed to pop up wherever your foot landed but you could feel that just off to the side was a large gapping drop. You could feel the pull of the Earth…Earth, is this Earth?
After a few horrid hours of fumbled searching in a place I had no bearings on had passed and I still didn’t find her panic had been washed over by innocent fear. Just as I was ready to call out again someone else came through. “Can anyone find Eddy? Jay I’ve lost you have you found Eddy?” This voice was like rain falling on the lightest tin. Estella and Edgar. The Twins. They were here. They were here and found each other.
I turned to the voice as it kept calling out. All at once it seemed so far away and yet it was right here in my head. “Estella! Estella its Nimue I’m over here, where are you?”
The voice was right next to me this time, still it sounded so faint. “Nim” I felt it. The cold grasp on my arm it pulled me and in pure horror I pulled back. It held me, it held me so tight I couldn’t breathe. Now for my life I struggled. A hot fury came washing over like a flood and I kicked, punched and pulled my way out of its grasp. “Nim! Nim, Nim, Nim. Nimue!” The voice struck me. It was Eddy. Edgar was right in front of me holding my arm. “Where have you been, I’ve been looking for you for days.”
Of course the most logical retort would be to ask how we got here or where here was. But as it was me I lash out at his arm and shout “Days? We’ve only been here a few hours.”
“What planet are you on!” … a good question indeed. “We’ve been here like five minutes!” Diary shrieked in her almost laughable 70’s movie American accent. At any other time we would laugh, but now, in this place laughter seemed mute.
I could feel more people around me now. Eddy held tight to my arm and Diary’s voice came closer. A heavy odour fell on me so thick I could taste it. Estella’s god awful perfume. She layered that muck on inch at a time. She told us on multiple occasions it was supposed to smell like lavender in the spring, it smelt like dog shit coated in febreze but now for the first time in our friendship I was so glad to smell it.
As usual the last person in our group, the person who would always turn up late for the movies or for a class assessment but was always the first there for dinner or a rugby match piped into our frantic flailing and screaming. “Has anyone seen any food around here? I’ve been looking for weeks but there just isn’t any.” Weeks, did he just say weeks? Are these people utterly void of a biological clock? Wait that isn’t important. What’s important is where we are, why we’re here and why I can’t see anyone.
Taking a moment to mute everyone their constant grabbing and screams was getting in the way of thinking. I closed my eyes tight, not that it made any difference, and tried to imagine them not here that I had silence to think. And just like in a story they were gone. I felt their voices going further and further away from me, I couldn’t feel Eddy’s grip on my arm and soon after I couldn’t feel them close at all. The more I tried to think of these people going the harder it became to visualise their faces like if I let them slip away all together I wouldn’t remember them even existing.
My eyes flew open. It was still pitch black but I could think clearly. I raised my free arm over my head and pronounced my middle finger. “Can anyone see this?” They stopped. The chattering and busy mouths stopped. For a split second there was utter silence. Had they gone, was I alone now?
After a heart thumping second they all chimed together. “No…” And then it started. Complete panic set in as everyone started rushing about and jabbering in nonsensical shouts for help and even some requests to deities. I lowered my arm and with it my middle finger. No one had hold of me anymore and no one was close enough for me to grab. Their voices were clearer than ever. I counted off my list in my head, things I had to find out. Number one, check. We couldn’t see each other.
“I need you all to do something for me.” I spoke in as calm a voice as I could muster. It was hard to stay calm, have you ever lost the ability to do something you could always do? It’s frightening to say the least. I had to check theory number two. “I need you all to calm down and do something for me.” This was not taken kindly and was met by a barrage of hysterical screams.
“Calm down! How are we supposed to calm down we’re all blind!” Diary shouted out holding her head in her arms. I felt sorry for her I could see the fear on her face and the agony in her voice. I could see her. I snapped my head round to where her voice was coming from but there was nobody there it was still as black as ever, but I could see her. I closed my eyes tight even covering them with my hands and there she was. I could see her in my head, I could see her actions. Have you ever stopped having an argument with someone and then continued it in your head? Have you ever seen the person’s actions and heard their voice? Theory number three will be tested.
“Diary Jones take your hands off of your face and listen to me!” I said this with almost a smile. I knew by now I had figured more out about this place than they had but even that small hope scared me. I still had no idea where we were or why we are here. Soon again the group went quiet. I could feel their moments stop and once again we were gathered together. It was odd that we could congregate by sheer feeling alone, we couldn’t see but we knew where we all were when we needed it. Diary took her hands away from her face and slowly migrated towards the feel of the group. “That’s right, that’s it.” I said as comfortingly as I could. “Diary I’m standing in front of you.” She jumped at this and her eyes peered wantonly into the distance and right through me. She tried to speak but before she could I stopped her. “I’m going to take your hands now but you have to calm down and listen to me, got that?” She nodded eagerly. I slid my hands under hers and gripped her wrists. “I’ve got you.”
Taking a break I held her arms tight. I could see she was holding her breath too. “I have some ideas about this place but I need you to do something for me.” I pulled Diary slowly into the now formed circle and made sure we were all close. “Now if I’m right I need you all not to freak out about this I just need you to stay quiet and listen. Everyone, put your arms out.” One my one these arms came forward. At first I couldn’t see them it was like something moving in the corner of your eye, like breath on a window. I felt around and grabbed their arms linking them with each other. I was in the middle now and with eyes tight shut I tried to see them.
Edgar held Estella’s hand tight and she held his. The tips of their fingers were turning bright white with how much they held on. Diary was still looking around, her breathing hitched a few times as she tried to stop her crying. But Jay, Jay was the star of every sports team he was on, he was a man’s man and no mistake but right now he looked like a little boy who so very desperately needing a hug. He tried hard not to hold Edgar or Diary’s hand too hard as a sign of weakness but he was the most terrified of all of us, but I wouldn’t be the one to give away his secret. “Put your lips together” I instructed after gaining a view of all of them. The faces were like a dream where you can’t really see them clearly but you can see them if you look away.
“Now if you’re going to start playing kiss chase with us that’s just cheating.” Jay spoke in a broken voice. He chuckled at the end of his sentence and so did the rest of us but we could all fell the fear now. If Jay was scared then this place was something to be feared.
“I want you to whistle.” It took a minute but after a few confused looks and squeezing of hands they all whistled. Except they didn’t. None of them made a sound. After some wetting of lips and harder gusts the tension started to build pulses were racing and it wouldn’t be long before someone broke. “Right stop. Everyone take a breath and calm down now. I can’t whistle ether but I have a theory. “Edgar went to interrupt me but I hushed him with a hand on his shoulder. “Ok everyone close your mouths. Close them as tight as you can! In your heads I want you to tell me your favourite colour.” And there it was, number two, check. Soon came a chorus of colours and after it everyone held their partners a lot closer.
“Blue.” For Diary.
“Green” For Edgar.
“Mauve” for Estella.
And Jay always the joker. “Barbie girl pink”
Again I had to break the scramble before anyone started shouting. “I can’t speak ether! Listen to me we are all talking in our heads our lips are moving but we’re not speaking that’s why we can’t whistle you can’t think a whistle.” The group broke hands, Eddy and Estella staying close to one another and Jay backing away slightly from the formation. “I only have one more thing I want you to do…”
“No! Who the hell do you think you are! What the fuck have you done why can you do all this shit and we can’t?” I never expected that burst from Edgar. Edgar Rucksaw was the quietest boy in class he was the polar opposite of Jay in every way. Intelligent, shoulder length hair and always wore a tie. I’d never heard this man swear in my life. All through high school he’d stayed quiet whenever someone picked on him, it was usually Jay who had to break it up. I suppose, now was good a time as any to fight back. The group all turned to him in utter shock. Although they couldn’t see him their expressions were the same. Diary didn’t know what to say. Jay stood stock as the kid he loved like a brother had done a total turn around. And Estella, Estella who had pushed Edgar around for years, who only got into University because he did all her course assignments for her was most shocked out of all of us. Edgar stood apart from the group almost hyperventilating as he growled into the blackness.
“Edgar this is only a theory. I’m not doing anything to you guys, I don’t know any more than you do.” Pausing for a moment I decided what my next move should be. I moved around Estella and Diary and stood in front of Edgar. The man was slim but a good foot higher than me. I took one of his hands and encompassed it with my own. “And…and I am just as terrified as all of you.” His shoulders dropped and the anger seemed to wash away from his face. If he could cry he would have. I wrapped my arms around his waist my head only reaching his shoulder.
Rising a miniscule amount onto my toes I whispered into his ear, or more likely the side of his neck. “Close your eyes Eddy.” Pulling away from his shallow grasp I held his hands in mine and looked up to him. “I want you to think about me, just me. Tell me, what I am doing?” his eyebrows furrowed as he tried hard to sort through the images in his head, to pull back a person form a long ago life. He face relaxed after a short time and his eyes blinked open. Looking over my head his gaze dropped to meet mine. For the first time in God knows how long we were looking at each other. The group had gone just like it did before and for a time it was just he and I we looked into the blackness and into each other’s eyes without uttering a single word. A trembling smile came to both our faces as we just laughed it off. Pulling each other close again I could feel him this time. Every small contour and every tuft of wavy hair. I could even smell him, he smelt like peppermint and the pages of new and old books.
Eddy and I had a weird relationship, he wasn’t my best friend, and in fact I never would have met him if Jay hadn’t asked me to the senior night out. That was a strange night. I’d saw Jay as the rippling go getter sports guy and stupidly pegged him as an egotistical idiot. Jay was very egotistical but I wouldn’t say that too him, he’d only giggle thinking you had said testical. Jay was also an idiot, he didn’t get into university because he never got the grades at school but for as much of an idiot he is he’s worked hard his entire life and is now a manager of a prominent retail chain. On the senior night out we both knew we were only there because he wanted to ask Diary but she had turned him down on multiple occasions. So there I was being his date for the evening and being badgered every five minutes to tell him if she was looking over yet, I kept saying yes, but she wasn’t.
The party had gone along normally we just sat and talked for an hour or so until Estella rolled up dragging Edgar in with her. She ditched him the minute she saw her tribe of screaming hyenas. You know those girls, every time they see each other they all let off a siren screech alerting the rest of the pack. Jay had pulled a very unwilling Edgar over to our table and there he sat for the rest of the night playing solo chess on his tablet. I tried to intervene a few times and strike up a conversation but the only time I got any obvious reaction was when I asked him to explain the rules of chess to me, a game I know very well. The rest of the night passed quietly we managed to put away a good nineteen games and Jay had managed to take home one of Estella’s yelping friends. From then on Eddy and Estella had cumulated into our group and we were who we were.
Loosening our grips the other members of our group came back into our peripheral vision. I think we had missed a conversation but I wasn’t sure. I nodded my head to the rest of the group and Eddy quickly picked up on the idea. Member after member we showed them all the, what I have come to call, internal vision. We were all merry and far more relaxed now we could see each other and hold each other without any worry or woe. We had lost and yet regained our senses.
The minutes and hours seemed to drip away and soon we were all slouched on the floor everyone intertwining with one another making sure we could still all see each other. The thought of this place seemed to have passed and none of us thought on it as we regaled each other with stories of what we have been doing since high school. Jay had climbed up the managerial ladder, Edgar was well on his way to completing his Master’s Degree despite the fact we’d only left high school two years ago, it turns out he was actually always a genius he just needed to escape high school to realise it. Estella had dropped out of university and working her way into some online career involving fashion sales. Diary was nearly on the third year of her degree in child education and I was just starting my first year at university. I had taken slightly longer than the rest, it turns out I’m not test smart I would blame it on the bad questions in exams but I simply preferred to learn different things.
We joked and giggled our way through the next couple of hours with Jay telling us about all his lovely PA’s and Estella telling us about her gala date with a fashionista who seemed to be the last person to figure out he was batting for the home team. Diary had met someone and she and her girlfriend had been together for the past year and we looking for a place of their own, fair to say this made Jay feel a little better about being rejected. Edgar had stayed in his apartment most of the time only venturing out every once in a while to forage for food or gather new reading material. As for myself I studied what I liked and accumulated a large collection of books.
We started to feel sullen again and the weight of this place pressed down and it all became real once we thought more about the people we had met and the people we weren’t sure if we’d ever see again came to mind. The blackness that had for a time faded away was now a heavy shadow casting over us all. This world was quite once more, one thing I had figured out was we were able to think to ourselves without having anyone hear it, it seemed to be that they would only hear me if I wanted them to.
The silence was broken by Diary. “Where are we?” She sat twiddling her bracelet between her fingers not looking up to the rest of us. She didn’t need to, we were all thinking the same thing.
“I don’t know” Estella confided. “I have an idea but I don’t want to say it because… because if I’m right then I don’t want to be” We all knew what she was thinking, we all felt it somewhere deep down but none of us wanted to ask, why would you? “Are we in…?”
“Hell.” Jay looked up at the rest of us stopping a struggling Estella from finishing her sentence. There it was, that burning gnawing pain bubbling down at the base of all our bellies. Are we in hell? Is that why we only see the darkness, is that why we are only ghosts of our selves doomed to only see one another like mist in the wind.
The feeling hit home hard, we all started to wonder and worry and then Edgar in his naive words compromised. “We could just be in purgatory.” He was looking up at us with doe eyes, hopeful eyes, eyes that wanted someone to agree with him and make the situation lighter. “Like Dante’s seven circles, we could just be in purgatory.” His voice drifted off when he saw that none of us were happier by this thought, we were either in the land of the devil himself or the land of the forgotten.
“How did he get out?” Jay asked quite honestly, having never picked up a book he wasn’t forced to read. We all looked to Edgar for the simplified transcript of the Divine comedy and in particular the Inferno. Edgar fumbled with his tie and cleared his throat his eyes searching the floor for the right words.
He started but stopped taking another few seconds to compose himself, he never liked all eyes being on him. “Well… In the Inferno Dante is being led round the circles of hell by Virgil a Roman poet who is unable to enter heaven and is resided in limbo, purgatory. But you see Dante’s lady love…”
“How did he get out?” Diary pressed the question stopping Edgar stumbling over his own words.
“He had to go through the circles of hell… right to the end.” Edgar swallowed hard at this thought, he had read the book, and he knew what would be faced. Pulses started to race again in the group as everyone became agitated at the thought of having to travel down through hell, through their versions of hell. But there was still one thing, one unanswered question still in plain sight and no one had asked it. I shuddered at the thought of this question and truly didn’t want it answered but I had to know.
“You are forgetting one key thing.” The group stopped and this time all eyes were on me. I looked to Edgar and he looked to me, out silent conversation was unanimous but we had to say it. “We are not Dante Edgar… So how did Virgil get to purgatory?” The room switched again, everyone hung on Edgar’s every last word.
“Well…” He started. “Virgil wasn’t able to worship the right God but he wasn’t a bad man so he couldn’t be sent to Hell so when he…” And the penny dropped. There it was the silent thought I had been dreading but the thought Edgar and myself now shared. His lower lip trembled lightly as he caught himself before he slid too far. His composure was breached but he had to go on. “So when he died he was sent to purgatory.” Death. Were we dead? Is this what happens after we leave life behind a world of confusion and nothingness?
There was no holding it back this time the group flew into a frenzy of panic and terror. The idea of death and life thereafter was one hard enough to grasp but when you are facing it as a real viable answer to your situation it becomes a lot harder. None of us were religious, we blasphemed a lot but we never really believed in it. There was no man in the sky ushering in a new world era of peace and love, there was only here and now. Only problem is, what is here and when is now. “Does anyone remember how we died?” Estella asked. She was the only one still on the floor, she was the only one not freaking out at this thought. We didn’t. None of us could remember how we died, none of us could remember if we had died. Maybe you aren’t supposed to, maybe once you cross over that moment is gone.
Like after taking a sedative we all relaxed into this question, each of us searching our ever depleting memory store to find how or if we died. The more I tried to remember the more I forgot. I couldn’t remember my apartment, I couldn’t even remember my cat, the world before seemed so fuzzy now. Our lives were there but then they weren’t. I was falling off the edge of the bed again, this falling that you can’t wake up from, where we were going to end up this time I didn’t want to know. The drowsy sick feeling of the floor beneath your feet But like a movie being so far away and coming close so quicklyflicked on I remembered.
This time we didn’t awake in a darker place, this time we jolted. We jolted awake to the place we were in, the bleakness all around but now we were clearer than ever. We all saw one another as brightly as before, we weren’t whispers of shadows in the corners of our eyes we were living breathing people. This moment of joy was worth the pain of the minutes before, whether they were minutes or weeks they were forgotten now with this regained sight.
But there it was, seeping into our minds a vile creature shrouded in shadows. The darkness was there and it was coming for us, oh how fast it came, we couldn’t run we couldn’t even scream. This monster flew at us so fast, its endless screeching coming closer and closer until our ears rang with its howl. Each of us fell to the ground clasping our ears, we screamed but even our collective screams weren’t enough to penetrate even a decibel of this atrocity. Nightmare doesn’t even come close, this thing is the creature that we have all met in our lives but only now, only in death, can we see its face.
Do you remember those times you saw it? Those times as a child you were too scared to drape your leg over the side of your bed knowing without need of proof that there was something there, something not human. And do you remember it, you the adult who still watches the doors from the corners of your eyes at night when it’s dark, you know you can’t be scared of something that isn’t there and that’s true but I’ll let you into a secret, there was always something there. You tell yourself that such fear is reserved only for a child’s monster in the closet but there you are still, a wise adult scared of the thing that goes bump in the night. Go ahead, reason with yourself, tell yourself it was only the pipe works and that shadow in the corner, there by your door is only part of your imagination. It’s there isn’t it, but you don’t see it. It’s watching. It’s waiting.
I see it now in my pain, I see its face. Every time the door creaked open, every shadow you swore wasn’t there before, it was there, watching and waiting. You might be scared of ghosts and vengeful spirits from the beyond but they will never hurt you, they are the calling cards of a thing that is so much worse. This is the thing that made your toys turn their heads, this is the thing whose face you saw in patterns on the wall, it’s coming for you, and it will get you.
The screaming commenced and we were pulled, pulled harder than we have ever been, this vacuum was crushing and squeezing whatever life we had left in us, and we fell so hard. We fell into a living room, suspended from the ceiling. I was exhausted, I was so tired. In a blur of motion below us sat four young people all peering over something between them. Moving was excruciating, it felt like you were being held against gravity by the tendons in your muscles. I moved my head as much as I could and there with me on the ceiling were the rest of them. Jay was already looking around and Estella was eagerly watching the teenagers on the floor. Edgar had already begun devising a plan but Diary was still fast asleep.
Chapter two: We are here.
The teenagers on the floor buzzed in and out, their images coming into focus and their voices were getting clearer. They were talking to each other, asking questions. I didn’t understand. Their hands were moving in the space between them and one of them held up a trinket. A watch, a white leather strap watch with a studded diamond face. Estella dropped to the floor. The teens looked around but they couldn’t see her, they continued with their work. Estella rubbed her joints peering up at us with no answers as to what was going on here. They held up a second trinket, a silver medal with the symbol for Pi on it, Jay dropped to the floor. Estella helped him to his feet and they both took each other into their arms chests heaving knuckles turning white. Next they held up a scrap book, it had been badly beaten and as they mumbled a few words Edgar fell to the ground. Jay practically picked him up and dusted him off.
It was my turn now. They held up a teddy bear, an almost white bear scuffed so much at the edges he’s had to be stitched back up. It was like someone had taken the weight from me. My hold on the ceiling lifted and I shot to the ground with a thud. I was helped up by Jay and Edgar and we all just looked at one another, the room around us was dark only illuminated by a few candles dotted around. It was bright enough to know where we were, the furniture and wall paper had changed but we knew this old house. Edgar and Estella had lived here when we were all in primary school and when I moved to town we stayed with them for a week before my parents settled the money to buy the house across the road. About Seven years later Diary’s mum bought the house and Eddy and Esty had moved two streets down. Diary’s mum had had a world wind romance with Jay’s uncle so for a short time Jay lived here too. This was a house that at one point or another we had all called home.
The items as I found out were trinkets of our lives. Estella’s watch was something given to her by her great aunt. It wasn’t worth anything and was the only item of jewellery she had that didn’t have a price tag on it. She greatly admired her aunt’s spirit and shrewdness and that led her into the sales market. Jay’s silver medal was from primary 5 when he won a maths competition. It was the only academic achievement he ever got and he’s held onto it for all this time. Eddy’s scrap book was all his achievements even ones we didn’t know about. For a genius he found it so hard to make friends outside of our group so he reminded himself of what he had achieved and what he could do.
My bear was nothing special, nothing expensive, but he was mine. He was my friend in a time of need and he was my only friend at some miserable points. It seemed to me my father was the only person who understood that this bear is something I would die and kill to protect. If you’ve ever lost a parent or parental figure you’ll understand why writing about it is near impossible. Even more impossible if that person is someone who understood something about you that no one else ever could. He understood that his bear wasn’t a toy, this bear was very, very real. When losing a parent you have to grow up so fast, you know you will never be able to hold that person again, never smell them or hear their voice. I don’t have a daddy anymore, I don’t even remember his face without pictures, and the more I try and remember it the more it fades. And so I came to understand what these items were.
These items were our hearts. These trinkets are what called us back from the blackness. We had invested ourselves into these stupid things and by doing so we were so attached that even death could not part us. It sounds quite fitting really. We left our hearts in the world of the living because the things we loved can never die.
“She’s still up there.” Jay said. The rules of speech seemed to still apply in this world, a thought was more than enough. And Jay was right, Diary was still held up against the wall, she for some reason was further down it than the rest of us, we watched the teens but they had nothing else, we could see glances of our stuff but there was nothing there for her. Edgar had moved over to her trying to shake her awake to no avail.
Esty and Jay both scuttled over to her, her blank face growing paler by the second. Her smooth ebony skin once the envy of the girls in our circle became course and rough. She slid further down the wall to where her feet barely dangled above the floor. She had no trinkets here, no objects of deep affection. I stepped away from the others and peered over the strange teens on the floor. Looking over them it was easy to see what held their fascination so. In the circle sat an old faded Ouija board. Its black letters held only slivers of the gold trim that laced them, the wood was dark and mould ridden. The corners of the board had been chipped away with small splinters sticking out at odd ends.
These teenagers had used our items to call us back from where we were. Unbeknown to them their midnight spook fest had worked, but how they got our items was still a mystery. I knelt down in a wide enough opening between two of the teenagers, a boy around 16 and a girl around 14. I watched closely as they bickered about which of them was pushing their dirty little shot glass around the board. At one point or another each of them had moved their hand away to show they couldn’t be pushing it but still the glass moved. I chuckled lightly to myself thinking if only they knew what they had managed to do, they wouldn’t be pushing it around. That small chuckle was all it took for the 14 year old girl to squeal at the top of her lungs that something was laughing beside her.
The rest of her group quieted her down and keeping myself quiet she settled. Her reaction had alerted the rest of my group who had blundered over and sat around the group of teens. Diary still lay sleeping on the wall. We looked to one another each acknowledging what these kid’s had done and what they were trying to do. We listened to them chant out Christmas cracker resurrection prayers and it took all of us to not laugh. The oldest of the kid’s couldn’t have been any older than 17 and that was a stretch, she very much resembled Estella in her, as I call them, extension years. The girl was caked in mismatched make-up none of it blending with her skin tone and bleached hair extensions that worked aimlessly to make her resemble the scarecrow from the wizard of oz. This girl sat up straight with an arrogant look. She was clearly the ring leader the one who pretended not to be scared of anything.
“God! Let’s just do this already I’m getting bored.” Even her voice matched her appearance. A nippy bitching tone rung true, if only I were alive, if only I could slap the fake off her face. They all clambered to their knees and placed one finger on the shot glass, not too hard as to push it but not too light to not feel it. I was waiting for her to push the glass and freak the rest of them out but like a high priestess she ordered to the heavens. “Spirits of the people who owned these things, come to us now and tell us you are here!” She defiantly got that from some shoddy online forum for conjuring the dead, probably something with a pentagram and half-moon in its logo. They all looked at the board wantonly for a minute or so but to their disappointment, nothing happened.
We all turned our attention to Jay, of course it would be him. He could never resist this type of opportunity. We leaned back as Jay slowly crawled between the extension girl and a jumped up skinny guy about 16, he was different to the boy beside me as he had messy short hair and a distinct smell of herbal remedies. The boy besides me was slightly more muscular with razored back hair and a light showing of a five o’clock shadow. Just as the extension was about to speak again Jay cupped his hand over the four kid’s and jolted the glass toward the word ‘hello’ on the board. This was enough for the 14 year old and the two boys to back off squealing. Scurrying away from the board only the extension was left holding the glass. “Oh shut up! One of you moved that.” She glared at the rest of her now fear stricken associates as they all shook their heads furiously. “Do it again!” She ordered and Jay slid the glass over to the word ‘no’. This time she pulled her hand away from the glass and scurried away from the board. By now the rest of her friends we all on their feet peering at the board from a distance. “What are you?” She stuttered out the question more a mark of confusion than anything else. Jay held his hand over the glass thinking to himself for a moment before moving it over a few letters. ‘I-N-‘He stopped.
“S-A-N-E” Edger corrected him as he clambered to his feet and moved to hover over Jay’s shoulder. In doing so his arm had unknowing passed through the arm of the herbal boy standing in front of him. Edgar was about to apologise but the boy had bolted to the more muscular one on the other size of the board eyes darting around the room. The muscular boy shook him off and he said nothing but continued to watch the board.
“Thanks.” ‘S-A-N-E’ Jay finished his spelling and the room erupted into a storm of frantic gibberish in more than one language. It turns out the muscular boy was Russian and the herbal guy knew more than one profanity in Spanish. The 14 year old whom I can only say resembled a pipe cleaner in a blanket stood as far away from the group as possible but still close enough to see the activity.
“Dude it’s not fucking funny Amy!” The herbal guy pushed the now standing extension girl who looked back at him with no snide remark instead just puzzlement and fear.
A hand gripped his shoulder and a husky Russian voice boomed. “Leave her alone Eric you can see it moving with your own eyes.” Eric the herbal guy couldn’t deny that. The glass had moved without any of his friends touching it.
“We need to leave.” A mousey voice squeaked from the corner of the room. The pipe cleaner turned out to be the smart one, or the most scared. Either way they were messing with something they had no idea about.
“Should we mess with them? I mean, they brought us here right? It’s only fair.” Jay looked up at us with his version of puppy eyes, Esty and I were the first to agree to the situation. Messing with some jumped up kids did seem like fun and since this might help us figure out what happened it was worth a shot. Eddy was a little more apprehensive about the situation, he had never been one to mess with or even tempt getting in trouble. Jay read Eddy like a book, his little brother was scared of being told off. “Aw c’mon Ed’s. We’re dead.” Jay made a motion of a mime hanging themselves. “We can’t get into much more trouble now can we?” Eddy had to laugh at this, there was nothing his science books could teach him now, and there were no quantitative statistical studies to suggest the best course of action. So he just shrugged his skinny shoulders and joined the rest of us round the board.
“Ask it a question” Amy had prodded the Russian boy forwards. He stumbled a little not wanting to get too close to the board. We all looked up at him grinning from ear to ear waiting for his next question.
The boy straightened himself out and coughed into his fist. “Um… Are you a boy or a girl?” really was that it? He asked the gender of the crazy ghost they were talking to? Wow this kid had brains. I turned to Eddy who was in utter mind meltdown over the idiocy of this question and Esty who looked to be pondering if the ghost should be a girl or a boy. Jay let go of the glass and turned to Eddy to look for guidance. This time I decided to take charge and pulled the glass to spell out the word, woman. The Russian boy took a step back and spoke without a word to his friends. Before he could ask another question I spelt. ‘Who are you?’
An eerie moment of silence passed. “Р-о-м-а-н” He coughed out. Turns out this kid and Jay could have a lot in common, the little bastard was as cocky as him.
We looked to Eddy for an explanation and without even having to look up at us dunces he tucked one strand of shady brown hair behind his ear and nodded. “Roman. His names Roman.” We mouthed an ‘oh’. As a collective we all stood dumb to Eddy, each of us was smart but in a group with Jay as our agreed Alpha we each looked to Eddy for intellectual guidance. I took the glass again and spelt. ‘Hello Roman.’ This seemed to be a shock to the boy, I suppose he thought he could outsmart someone trying to play a trick, what he didn’t count on was our having an Eddy to shield us from embarrassing ignorance.
“Why didn’t we ever do this?” Esty giggled watching the boy’s expression. “If all we would be contacting is people like us then it could have been a fun game, we could have been the best crime detectives in history.” This was a good point, we could directly contact the murdered and ask them what happened. But then again, we don’t even remember what happened and of course who would believe someone who uses an Ouija board as an actual piece of evidence.
“Diary never liked the idea of upsetting the dead.” Eddy stated. Eddy often spoke in statements and rarely looked at you when he spoke. It was as if everything to him was like answering a question in class and less like friends having a chat.
“Speaking of Diary why is she still on the wall?” Jay asked turning around on his knees to look at the paling girl still glued to the wall.
I was about to answer the question myself but fortunately the human encyclopaedia jumped in. “We all woke up once our objects were presented, nothing of hers is here so she can’t come down yet.”
“Then why is she here.” I thought out loud. That saying had become more and more real, every thought was out loud. Every odd thing we thought and forgot to guard was open for everyone. The only way our thoughts were shielded was if we pushed everyone away like I had back in the bleakness.
Edgar paused we could all hear his mind ticking over with millions of ideas and conundrums of different hypothesis as he glanced through each genre of science. He eventually arrived at space and concluded. “Maybe she is here because we were all pulled through at the same time ergo she was sucked in with us.” That was about as close to anything logical as any of us had got. We were pushing away each other so we could think but the problem with that was once you pushed them away you could only hear your own voice. If someone called to you they couldn’t hear you and if that was what had happened to Diary then she wouldn’t be able to hear us and follow us back.
“Are you dead.” Eric had finally popped his head out from behind Romans shoulder.
Was this the time for admission, do we state now that we are amongst the world of the departed. In a poetic sense we could take this moment to tell them of the great beyond and ease their minds but we ourselves didn’t know where we were or what had happened so would it be just for us to lie to them about a world that for all religious exposition we had yet to see exist. I moved the glass. ‘Yes’ we are dead. I still wasn’t sure about this statement but it is truer than saying we are alive, of that I am sure we’re not.
“How did you die?” Amy asked inching closer to the board. At first we had wanted to mess with their heads and let them think there was some crazed thing living in the house but now we have come to wonder if maybe they know more about how we died than we do.
Eddy covered my hand and moved the glass. ‘Do you know?’ The girl looked to her friends and to the trinkets. She went to pick one up but instead asked. “What is your name?” Jay having caught on to what Eddy and I were doing took over and spelt his name. ‘Jason Curby.’ I don’t know what it was about his name but it made every one of those four jump back against the nearest wall. Even the mousy girl had to back further away. For a while Roman had looked tough, he was scared but he was tough, however, when Jay spelt his name that Russian boy looked more drained than the girl hanging from the wall.
‘What happened to me?’ Jay spelt out quickly. We were all as eager as him to find out what had happened. All four of us had gathered around the board and our eyes darted between the kid’s standing above us and the maddening look in Jay’s eyes. The kid’s stayed silent. ‘What happened to me?’ He spelt again. Nothing. And again. Still nothing. The kid’s stayed quiet and Jay grew more and more frustrated. Understanding his pain we all willed for them to answer him. What was so horrific that they couldn’t say? What had happened to us? What happened to Jay?
Never being one to tame his anger Jay clutched the glass between his palms and picked the glass up from the board and launched it at the kid’s. It smashed into tiny pieces on collision with the wall between Amy and Roman. The kids ducked at the sound covering their faces with their inner arms. Jay stood in front of those kids chest heaving in and out, teeth clenching. I’d only ever seen him look like this once. His friends on the rugby team had cornered Eddy in the changing room, Things happened in there that nether Eddy or Jay would tell us about, all we knew was that Eddy left that room in tears and Jay was suspended for a month for sending those guys to the hospital.
“What happened to me?” Jay roared at the kids. If the earth could move from one man’s agony it would move now, but in his anger Jay had managed to do something magnificent. Those four kids all looked up to Jay meeting him eye to eye. Within a heartbeat they screamed. Each of them pinned into place they screamed bloody murder and sunk down into the floor, covering their heads, shielding them from what horror stood over them.
Jay recognised their fear and his anger subsided. He backed away from them without a word. Confused he looked to Eddy for answers, to which Eddy could only stare wide eyed and stutter out syllables. Covering their crying sounds Eric was the first to raise his head. Peeking through a gap in his fingers he scanned the room. Like something in slow motion he lowered his hands from his face and looked around. The room was dark, the dim candles still flickered in the midnight air and the only sounds to fill the room were the muffled cries of his three cowering friends.
Jay put his arm out to touch the ground as he stumbled backwards, I took his arm and guided him. Soon seated, we four closed in watching intently the children before us to see their next reaction. Eric’s breathing faltered for a moment but once he caught it he dug his elbow roughly into Romans side. Roman who had instinctively put his arms around the mousy girl and held her to the wall. An Alpha male taking a protective stance over the weakest member of the group. Amy had buried her face into Eric’s shoulder and only started to shift when he clambered back to his feet. Roman had too glanced around the room and once he deemed it safe he helped the quiet girl to her feet.
Eric looked around the old house, its creaking floorboards bending up from years of ill use, the drapes hanging off the curtain rails fraying at the edges, no wonder this house was perfect for a ghostly game. Even Stephen King would think twice about disturbing this place. The game was being placed underneath and alcove between the old living room which had now been turned into a dining room and the hallway connecting to the front door. The paint had peeled off these walls and the hideous brick work shone through. The door of the house stood as a testament to time, the glass was fogged over and the dainty pleated curtain held on by its finger tips. The door handle had been changed since we lived here but the abysmal blue paint work hadn’t.
The curtains of the old house waved at Eric and the others, as the night wind whispered through them. “What the fuck was that?” Amy bleated out without properly taking the time to view her surroundings. Roman, Eric and the mousy girl all chimed together shushing her. None of them were really sure they were safe yet. Which by all accounts was a smart assumption as we still sat speechless watching them.
Roman kept a protective stance in front of the younger girl and Eric and Amy had clad together. I held Jay’s arm tight and Esty clung onto Edgars. “Did what I think just happened, happen?” Esty whispered eyes still locked on the kids.
Jay swallowed and took time to reply. “They saw me. They saw me didn’t they?” Edgar and I knew that question was for us but we couldn’t answer. He didn’t have any scientific explanation and for all my smart arseary, my knowledge of philosophy and theology failed me now. Now that it was no longer theoretical. This scene was quite ironic and looking back I’m glad those kids couldn’t see us. We four ghosts sitting cowering behind a Ouija board as teenagers have more answers to our deaths than we do. Of all the things I thought could happen after death being trapped by trinkets and used to the amusement of children was not one of them.
Edgar broke away from Esty’s grasp and moved closer to the kids. When he was less than a foot from them we all leaped into action. Shouting for him to stop the rest of us were too cautious to advance any closer. For all that he was Edgar was not brave, but his scientific curiosity sometimes matched his urge for self-preservation. He towered over the small girl who up to this point had not moved from behind Roman nor uttered a word. The Russian held his arm over her not touching her but being ready to if anything should happen. “He’s like a big brother to her, I thought he would have tried to protect the other one.” Of course. Of course Edgar had noticed that, of course his mind would have twigged on to that. While the rest of us are cowering in the spectral realm he’s looking at who’s coupling up.
Edgar had peered over the two as if they were museum pieces yet to be displayed, all he was missing was a set of tweezers and a jotter to note down his findings. He spied an inscription on a small pendant hung around Roman’s neck. The pendant was of St. Christopher. Roman was a Catholic, how fitting. “Did you know St. Christopher has now been debated to have ever actually existed, although a saint his church status has since been lowered due to his wavering time line…” our shoulders dropped.
We didn’t need to look to one another to know the expression, there were many things in our group we named after Edgar. He could give Sherlock a run for his money and so we now say “No Shit Edgar.” Not as catchy of course but a small joke. However, this expression was called ‘The Edgar’ this is when Edgar had magically transformed from a human being into a walking talking encyclopaedia. He often did this at the most awkward or unusual times. He’d take to reciting large chunks of facts just because he’s spotted something as his mind wondered from our dulling conversations. At which point our faces would drop as we listened to words we knew were English, but sometimes Latin, yet we had no idea what he was saying. I suppose we should have paid more attention.
Edgar moved to point out some of the insignia on the pendant and once again his hand eye coordination failed him. He brushed his arm along Romans shoulder and the Russian recoiled reaching his hand back and gripping the quiet girl roughly. Caging her against the wall his St. Christopher bounced lightly against his chest as he heaved in and out. Eric and Amy had caught onto the panic and were trying desperately to break Romans grip. “Roman, dude, let Cat go!” Huh, the mouse was a cat all along?
Poor Edgar stood frozen his awkwardness prevented him from doing anything to assist. Jay was the first to step forward and pull Edgar back to our group. The shy boy paced back and crossed his arms over himself in his honed in protective stance. Esty rubbed Edgars shoulders in an effort to try and comfort him but Jay leaned back over to me. “So they can feel us then?”
I was still processing the information when he asked so he had to repeat himself. Running my fingers through my short hair the auburn colour had seemed to be getting duller the longer we stayed here, but dying my hair was not a priority. “You were angry when they saw you but Edgar was… well he was Edgar.” I glanced over to the man who had now cuddled himself unto a boy, the years of high school taunts had taken their toll. “Maybe they can feel us anyway, you know like in the movies? But maybe they can only see us when we really want them to. Did you want them to see you?” I had no idea what I was talking about. The only thing we had to go off of now was our ideas. I knew horror movies and now seemed as good a time as any to test their theories.
Jay seemed puzzled for a bit, he watched over the group of teens all squabbling amongst themselves. The distance between us and them seemed great. We worked slower than them, they were buzzing around so fast and we just sat as if behind a glass wall unable to really connect. “I guess I did. I mean, I wanted them to answer me and I guess I wanted to scare them.” Jay was about to continue with his idea but was broken off half way by a shriek.
“Oh dear God!” Esty had hugged Edgar and over his shoulder she stood petrified pointing at the monstrous sight in front of her. We followed her point of view and one by one screamed and gasped in return. There still pinned against the wall was a rotting and decaying Diary. We flew over to her and the sight was ungodly. Her paling skin had pulled back in places from her face and her eyes had been scorched out of their sockets. Her skin was blistering and pealing in places and her mouth was held open like an unearthed mummy perpetually screaming through the eons.
It seemed we weren’t the only ones to hear Esty scream as the kids had all scrambled now. Roman still held Cats arm and Eric and Amy had bolted for the door. Roman took a chair and aimed it at the window. We couldn’t blame them, we were now watching in horror huddled around out friend as she lay pinned to the wall, jerking and silently screaming. The anguish in her movements were clear and we clung to each other unable to help her. Esty had tears forming in the corners of her eyes and Jay had tried to pull me into his chest to prevent me from seeing this. It took less than a moment for us to swallow our fear and we grabbed whatever part of Diary we could. Her scream seemed louder but we could not hear it.
Frantically we tried to pull her from the wall but with very pull her pain worsened. Three, four, five times we tried and five times our friend sang with sorrow. Her fingers and legs were blistering now and the skin was riddled with puss and unspeakable bile. Her head was pinned back against the wall as her hair started to fray and cinder away from her head. Esty and I held each other as the boys grew in frustration unable to help their friend. Diary’s mouth dropped open and inside was a vision of unholy horror. Coming from and burning the inside of her frame were headed fire’s climbing the way up her throat. We could see these flames leaping from one part of her to the other as they consumed her from the inside out.
Her face contorted in agony as her flesh stripped away, her eyes flew open and in their place were the smouldering ashes of what once was. As we watched on in horror the worst was yet to come. Just as her pain looked to be ending it came back. The shadow hooded creature from the other world. Its figure shrouded over Diary on the wall. Looking on in utter fear we saw it come more and more into focus until the dark thing stood seven feet tall rasping its long smoke covered arms around Diary. Under the hood cracked a pale face. Shards of its mask broke inwards until like porcelain smashing it had a jagged smile crossing from one end of the white to the other. Again came the screech. This time we did not fall, we did not teeter, we did not drop. This time we stood still and the world around us shook. Covering our ears we were broken to our knees as the walls around us stammered, furniture smashed up and down against the floor and doors upstairs and down slammed against their frames.
The thick fog following the creature made its way up Diary and invaded her. Entering through every orifice it captured her. Once the Fog had claimed its victim it set up the screeching terror. A moment was all it took for the thing to be gone. Its face repaired itself and it seemed to just fall back into the wall taking Diary with it. The world stopped shaking and our ears stopped ringing in enough time to see Eric and Amy come back to Roman and Cat. We were still woozy from whatever had just happened but Roman was cut and bleeding and there were splinters of glass on the floor. The chair Roman had used to smash the window only revealed a grey stone brick wall blocking their escape. “Well?” Roman stood looking to Eric clutching his bleeding hand.
Small beads of blood had already trickled down Romans hand and spilled onto the floorboards below. None of them seemed phased by what had just happened. The house hadn’t shook and their ears weren’t ringing. But Eric look scared. He fiddled with the torn ends of his battered old hoodie staring back at Roman. “The doors locked.”
“That’s impossible!” Cat blurted out. The group of kids had the same reaction we all did to Edgar’s similar outburst. “We broke that lock getting in here.” She continued, reverting to her mousy voice. She was still in her place just behind Roman her hands hovering over his wounded hand in a state of protection without actually touching him.
“Then who locked it…” Amy asked her eyes set firmly on the floor one arm wrapped around her person. She had gone from alpha bitch to shaking puppy in the time it took Estella to scream. Her tone was still authorities but now it was starting to waver, she wasn’t confident in her words anymore and they all knew it. Something was happening here.
“You mean what locked it…” Roman added meeting Amy’s rising head to look her dead in the eyes. He had dawned a growl. No longer Amy’s right hand man he was starting to take over the group, protecting the weakest link. Eric stood next to Cat watching the two alphas struggle. He was for all intensive purposes there for the comic relief of the group, he knew how this went, and the joker was the first to be disposed of.
But Roman was right, none of us locked that door and there were never any bricks outside that window before, so who or what was keeping us and those kids in this house?
Chapter three: We are fighting.
Diary was gone and both groups were stunted in their plans. We had set out to make a joke out of the kids and the kids had wanted to piss off some ghosts. Now we were trapped in a house, unsure of what we really were but somehow we needed to communicate with the living. Cat held Roman’s still bleeding hand protectively as Eric now loitering around the back of Amy scratched the back of his neck. Amy and Roman’s alpha battle had ended in a stalemate as the heavy realisation that they were being kept here finally took hold. We had gathered round them in pairs. Jay had taken hold of a sobbing Estella and Edgar and I were left to think up a plan.
Roman hissed as Cat dabbed his wound with a handkerchief she’d pulled out of her jumper sleeve. “We’ll just ram it down” The Russian snarled through gritted teeth. He was becoming more and more like Jay as the night wore on, heavy headed and quick tempered. He didn’t want to be the one in the group falling back on fear, but you could see just how scared he was.
Eric wiped his nose on his tattered sleeve, not wanting to let the group see the tears pooling in the corners of his eyes. “And what if you just run into another wall, Brick head.” As the group turned to him he transferred the wiping into scratching. “As much as you think you are, you’re not Transylvania’s answer to the incredible Hulk.”
Roman snatched his hand away from Cat grabbing the nape of Eric’s worn t-shirt. The girls clung to Roman’s thick arms begging him to put Eric down. The bulging figure ignored their pleas and pulled Eric onto his toes so that they were a mere breath away from one another. In a low, strong voice he reclaimed his name. “I’m am a son of Mother Russia you junkie fuck. Unless you plan to smoke your way out of here I suggest you come up with a better plan.” With that he dropped Eric to the ground.
Eric landed on his heels and fell backwards, Amy shook her grip from Roman and pulled Eric back to his feet. “Do you really think this is going to help anyone?” Amy snarled first at Eric before turning her gaze to Roman. “We can try breaking down the door and if that doesn’t help we need to find somewhere else.” She stood between the boys palms out to both of them. Her head bitch status was gone and now she sought only survival, and to do that she needed them.
Cat quietly tied the hanky around a cooling Roman’s hand. Once it was safely in place the group rummaged through the debris of the broken chair and smashed glass. Roman and Eric each had a leg, Roman’s had splintered at the joint and Cat had a small spike that had broken from the back of the frame. The three of them headed down the open plan hall way to the door. Left behind was Amy who cautiously picked up a shard of the broken window wrapping the chunkier end of it in her light lase scarf. She tucked the self-made shiv into the back of her trousers and joined the group.
The four of us joined in behind them as Jay sucked his teeth, raising an eyebrow at Amy’s deception. Keeping a few feet behind them at all times we watched as one by one they tried to hammer down the door. The door was nothing special, a simple wooden frame with a fogged window in the middle. Not one of them even made a dent on it. The lock they’d broken to get in here was perfectly intact and not even the window would crack. After a while they all slumped to the floor, sweaty and beaten they looked up at this simple suburban door that stood untarnished, laughing at them.
Esty popped her head out from behind Jay, she didn’t seem frightened, and then again none of us really did. We’d seen do much in whatever time we’d be doing this that now it was like waiting for the next twist to happen. Yes, we were petrified about this place and the world we came from but I guess we all knew our way out of here was not through that door. “Might as well try?” She suggested leaning over Cat reaching for the door.
Cats face fell white as she felt the cool air blow over her. Rising up she bolted for the other end of the room. It was like watching the Olympic hundred meter dash. The other three had caught on now that whenever one person ran, you all ran, and they quickly joined her. Esty pulled her hand away from the door squirming. Goosebumps could have rose on her skin, we just watched her waiting for some indication of what had happened. She wrapped her arms around her chest holding onto her shoulders. “I think I finally get that saying.”
“What one?” Jay blurted out moving closer to her.
“Someone just walked over my grave.” That was awarded with a small chuckle from the group. We could only laugh now, there wasn’t much use in crying. We had just watched our friend burn in death but for some reason we were all right. It was a weird sensation, but whenever that creature left we were left with a sense of peace. Its arrival however, was like coming face to face with the monster under the bed.
“We can die in this world.” Edgar injected. He’d stayed quiet this whole time. I’d guessed he had pushed us away but it could just be normal him. “If we are dead and what happened to Diary was right, then this isn’t the last stop. We can die here too.” His eyes stayed fixated on the floor like he was reading his own words at a distance.
“So like a horror movie dream?” I added. By now we had started migrating back towards the huddled group all whispering their ideas of this place. “You know, if you die in the dream you die for real?” I guess Edgar hadn’t thought of that.
His eyes snapped up to me as the clogs in his head started to spin. “Maybe that’s it. Maybe we need to die here to get to the next place.” Eddy was nodding his head in agreement with himself.
“I don’t want to die like that.” Esty butted in. “if we have to burn like Diary, I’ll stay here in quoits if I have to.”
“Limbo” Edgar corrected her. He had his arm draped around his belly. It was nice now that we could finally touch one another, although after seeing Diary, we didn’t really want to.
Esty batted him away. “Well whatever garden game you call it.” I could feel Edgar twitch beside me, he often hated how he and his sister were on opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum. When she went to parties he sat home and did her assignments for fun. “We don’t need to die for real do we? We can just stay in the dream?” Esty had cuddled into Jay by the time we reached the group and now she was starting to get frightened.
Roman had started to devise a plan and was midway through explaining it to the rest of his troop when Jay erupted in laughter. We had all huddled in the spaces between the living and Jay had just caught on to what we were talking about. He had wondered away from the scrum and was whole heartedly laughing, if he could cry he would. “It’s fucking Freddy Kruger!” He mumbled out between low pitched snorts. “We’re on Elm Street and that thing is Kruger.” He doubled over himself clinging to his sides. “All we need now is Voorhees and we’re set!”
The rest of us had now saw the funny side of being in a dream where you could die. Maybe this was just a horror movie, maybe we weren’t supposed to get out of it. As Jay propped himself up against the alcove wall we each chuckled quietly leaning back into the group to hear their plans. Huddled around one another the group of teens listened to Roman’s nearly finished plan. “Basically, I think if we can get upstairs and crack a window we can drop down onto the awning.”
“What if it’s just bricked again?” Amy pointed out. “If it’s bricked we’ll be stuck here and we’ll be stuck upstairs. I don’t know what’s up there, I only checked the downstairs before we came.”
Cat had been covering her face with her jumper sleeves. “Do you think he’s still up there?” She pulled her hands away from her mouth of a moment to ask. The group looked lost. Each of them raised their eyes to the ceiling above them.
Eric just let out air tailgated with a huff. “No way man, didn’t you see all the police lines. They’ll have cut him down and taken him out of here. Can’t leave evidence like that lying around. The group agreed with this notion forcefully as we just looked at one another with no inkling as to what they were talking about. Jay had joined us again by this point and it seems that this house held some secrets long after we left it.
The group leaned up again and we all skipped backwards to avoid touching them, anymore screaming fits would just waste time. “We should split up.” Amy shifted her weight from one leg to another, trying and almost succeeding to portray confidence. “Roman and I will go upstairs and you and Cat can stay here and shout if anything happens.” She looked to Eric before grabbing Romans arm. “Since these two will only cry at anything we’re best to investigate.” The group agreed.
The four of us jumped up and down behind them waving our hands in disbelief. “No!” We chimed in together. No, how could they be this stupid. Have they never seen Scooby-Doo, you never split up! Splitting up only means bad shit’s going to happen. There suggestion of splitting up had only pulled us closer together. There was no way we were going to do that. We don’t know what or who was in this house but we sure as hell knew we couldn’t face it alone. “We’re not splitting up, right?” Estella clung to Jays arm her eyes darting between Edgar and I who were now inches apart.”
“No.” The three of us spoke in unison. Jay pulled his arm away from Estella and wrapped it tightly around her. We were ignoring the group of what we now deemed as idiots. How are we supposed to get out of here, how do we even get that thing to come back? I was about to speak when a whisper of warmth brushed against the back of my hand. My head fluttered as I quickly looked round, I had to double take. Edgar was still watching Jay and Estella cling to one another but his hand was brushing against mine. This man didn’t shake hands, he avoided all forms of physical contact and only at Christmas would we ever get a hug. The only person who ever touched him was Estella. We just figured that it was because they spent nine months cooking together and basically had the same skin. But now, now this man who’d went his life without ever needed to hold someone’s hand was asking for mine.
I slid my hand behind his and entwined his and my fingers. Pressing our shoulders together I held his hand for dear life. I didn’t look at him, I didn’t want him to blush or shy away from this, he needed someone and God damn it I was going to be there for him. I felt him look at me though, for a beat he looked at me. I felt my hand being squeezed back and that was all the assurance I needed that what I did was the right thing. “I think we should go upstairs” Edgar added. The group of teens had already started to move and we just stood there. “The Russian’s right, there’s nothing we can do down here. We might as well observe the full scale of our problem” Thank God we had someone like Edgar on our side.
Roman and Amy had started to walk up the stairs. He clutched the chair leg over his shoulder ready for battle, she had her hand pressed against the back of her jeans. As they slowly made their way for the stair case we soon followed foot. Cat and Eric stood at the bottom by the door peering up at the dark hallway about to encompass their friends. Jay was on the bottom step as Edgar and I caught up behind him. Estella was on the floor. We were waiting for either Amy or Roman to scream or give some signal of trouble.
Over by the door Cat and Eric were standing apart, Eric looked up at Roman and Cat stood in the middle of the room twirling something between her fingers. Estella glanced over at her and without saying anything to us moved over to her. We watched her for a moment before looking back to the two on the staircase. Gleaming in the dim candle light Cat held Estella’s watch. The grimy fake diamonds bounced light off of one another. Estella stood over the young girl with a soft smile as the girl admired her possession. Estella had left the watch in perfect condition but now the strap was battered and the clock face cracked.
Esty related to this girl more than she related Amy, although they had little in common now. You wouldn’t know it to look at her but Estella Ruckshaw once had the ability to be embarrassed. Edgar had told us of fabled times when, as legend has it, she was shy and mousy. There was tell of a myth that she too was a quiet child, much like Edgar, but unlike him was swept away with a crowd of people. Unlike the rest of us gargoyles she had a lot to thank puberty for, Disney grade hair, perfect skin and the woman kept a perfect figure. There was no escaping why those who fell below the ‘A’ group grade hated her, the green eyed monster was very rampant in our school. But once we’d all left and became out own people we realised we were all jealous of stupid things. Adolescence left us one at a time and we each grew into our own skin. She would forever be the prom queen and effectively queen of the school but high school doesn’t last forever, no matter how much you think it will. Now she was just Esty, her pedestal place was gone and she was back down here with the rest of us.
There were times we felt, almost sorry for her. Yes she had a good life now, a good job and a great apartment she was left isolated in the world. None of us would have ever hung out with her if not for Edgar and Jay. She and girls like her were tarred with the brush of high school success, while the rest of us were learning to form long lasting bonds with the rest of Victor Hugo’s Quasimodoesque people, she was stuck in an endless parade of empty beauty. In many ways we should have felt sorry for their group. They were lumped together we no real common interests. They had themselves been judged and slung together. Estella was our friend now, we all loved her as our glamorous big sister we only wished we’d pulled her into our group sooner.
As she watched over the sweet girl Estella saw everything she was and everything this girl could be. It was easy to see why Amy hated her, the fairest of the land was about to come of age and rob her throne. She reached a hand out to touch the watch. She couldn’t feel it, not like Jay did with the glass. She couldn’t touch it properly, her slender fingers passed through it but she already knew how it felt, she knew it enough to know how the smooth edge felt, how the bumpy rhinestones bobbed along the surface and how the spongy strap felt pressed between her fingers. I suppose this was how we all felt about our trinkets, she knew her watch as much as I knew my bear.
We’d all resigned ourselves to watching Roman and Amy silently climb the stairs with as much skill and grace as a pre-teen Bond. It seemed that each step they hit a chorus of squeaks and groans would serenade them up the stairs. Eric stood blundered between us at the foot of the stairs, he didn’t really know what to do, and then again none of us did. He just watched them with his hands deep in his pockets. He was fumbling about with something, we were sure it was just a flower. Jay had lost interest in the two on the stairs and had instead started to pull faces at Eric. It was like watching those busy tourists outside Buckingham palace all trying to make the guardsmen move or react. Edgar and I snickered silently, we hadn’t laughed since we got here.
I started to feel uneasy, there was a growing pain in my stomach. A twisting pain that felt like my organs were all being pressed down and contorted. My hand few to my gut and looking up I saw Edgar and Jay doing the same. The pain was a unanimous one. Edgar had pulled my hand to his stomach for a second before releasing my fingers and leaning against the banister on the stairs. Jay was leant back against the wall and I teetered on by myself. It took a moment for them both to look up but once they had there was a conversation of nods to conclude that we were all feeling the same. Edgar changed his hands and instead of taking mine wrapped his free one around my shoulders.
We looked to Estella who stood fondling her watch in memory, she didn’t seem to be feeling this. She was still smiling at whatever memories she was having. The knot in our stomachs turned tighter and with it the faint far away howl of the creature ran in our ears. When the screaming started Edgar held me tight wrapping his arms around me and me around him. I didn’t know what was going to happen but I didn’t want to let go of his man. Jay had clicked on to what was happening, our faces painted a very clear picture. He looked to us and then to Estella who still stood unaware of what was happening.
Estella watched the girl move her watch from one hand to the other but she’d lost her smile. She could now feel something there, something watching her. To her right was the bolted door and left was the open plan hall with nothing but flickering candles. But it wasn’t. There hidden amongst the candles loomed our hooded horror. The figure shrouded in the smoke it exhumed, it stood between the faint light of the flame and the blackness of the night. It stood and smiled. She couldn’t look at it, fear had washed over her and now she stood alone and shaking, she saw it there in the corner of her eye. She wanted to scream, wanted to cry and wanted to shout for her mother. She did a backwards glance over her left shoulder and saw Jay pounding his way across the room towards her.
Looking back to Cat she saw the smoke, the black fog, the burning mist. She saw it lingering around her, whispering. There wasn’t time, Jay wouldn’t get here fact enough, and this girl was going to burn. Without thinking she turned and gripped the handle of the door. She held it, just like Jay had held the glass, she held it and she pulled. The door cracked from its hinges and pulled open. Turning back to Cat who just stood in awe of the locked door opening on its own she saw the creature looming behind her. The creature didn’t see her, it was fixated on Cat. Its screeching smile blistered across its face as the fog fell hard around Cat.
There was nothing she could do. This was all happening in the space of a second, she could feel the weight of the world pressing her and all she wanted to do was scream. And so she did. Estella looked to Cat and screamed. “Get out!” Cat had seen her, Cat saw Estella Ruckshaw. She heard her scream and she heard her message. The girl burst into tears screaming herself, she fled from the house. The second her foot had passed over the threshold into the outside world Estella slammed to the door shut. The door had barely let the dust out when the creature flew at her. Screeching now that it had lost its victim, the fog collided with Estella and we fell.
Estella stood in a well to do apartment. Her modern taste had shown up on all the upholstery, a gleaming white home with Queen Anne chairs that no one ever sat on. She was rooted in a kitchen full of high tech appliances, coffee makers worth more than the average monthly salary and a cooker that could still have its wrapping on. She sat at an island table with a half glass of chardonnay, of course she wouldn’t have Red in this house. Her head was propped up on her fist while her free hand circled the glass. She looked like she’d just awoken from a day dream.
A phone buzzed on the table beside her, it lit up and flashed prompting Estella to mindlessly flick through the social media site she’d received a notification for. Behind her down the hall way came a puff of steam. The room temperature rose and from behind the isolated kitchen a well-built man with a chiselled jaw line and virtually no hair past the neck stepped out wearing only a pair of boxers. His wet feet padded into the kitchen as she swooped in behind Esty, wrapping his arms around her waist. Nuzzling his head into her now dirty blond hair she giggled laying her arms on top of his.
The muscle man towered over her and his steaming rugged voice matched to boot. “Where am I taking my lady tonight?” He asked her between planting kisses on her neck.
The giggling stopped as she leaned into his kisses “Where do you want to take me?” She asked biting her lip, her seductive tone causing him to grip her tighter.
“Well” he started running his hands up her forearms. Her hair dangled in front of her face as her head dropped forward only showing the expressions of her lips. “I’ve heard of a new hot spot in town. They call it the bedroom.” His hands reached the top of her shoulders as he started to massage their way down her back. “Some say on good nights people have been known to bite the pillows.”
Estella parted her lips to reply but her phone buzzed her silent. The man had dropped his hands from her back and quickly snatched the phone from the table. Estella wrapped her arms around herself like Edgar did when he was scared. The man flicked through the message on the phone before looking through the rest of her device.
“Who are you talking to?” He asked without looking up at her, his eyes remain fixated with the phone and its contents.
Estella stuttered, she stammered like Edgar when doing a public presentation. “No one.” She finally got out. “Just the girls from work. You remember Abby right?”
I don’t know what she said but the man looked up from the phone then skimmed it across the island top smacking it right into Estella’s face. She clutched her bruised chin with a yelp. The man flew over the island grabbing a fist of hair at the back of her head. “You think I’m an idiot huh!” he boomed into her face. “You think I don’t know what a whore you are?” Estella sobbed into her hand, her free hand clinging to her head to ease any pain.
She held his arm looking at him through watery eyes. “No, Aaron, baby, please I didn’t do anything.” She shifted from one leg to another. “I love you.” She sobbed.
Aaron pulled her hair back tighter curling the other hand into a fist. His knuckles turning white. “You’re a liar” He leaned in closer to her. “And a slut.” His fist swung back and hooked straight into her gut.
She cried out folding her arms to hold her aching belly. She fell to the floor as he pulled his hand from her hair. Looking up at him her face was clear of any obstruction. It was a battle field of bruises both old and new. She wore the remnants of a black eye awarded many days ago and the scars of a broken nose put back into place. “Please” She begged from her knees.
Aaron swooped down on top of her. Straddling her hips he pinned her to the floor. He wrapped two very large, very strong hands around her throat slamming her head to the floor. “Not. Good. Enough.” With each word he slammed Estella’s head into the white tile floor. He was a man possessed, again and again and again. He’d kept beating her long after her body fell limp, long after she’d stopped begging, long after her hands had stopped scratching and her eyes had glassed over.
The gleaming white floor now pooled with the blood seeping out of her head. It mixed with broken bone fragments and even brain tissue cut off in the blows. Aaron sat growling coated in his girlfriend’s blood, still banging her lifeless corps into the ground. Estella had died as she lived. Not in happiness and love, but in fear and abuse. She was a silent victim of a pretty boy who didn’t like to share his toys.
When we opened our eyes Estella was gone, Cat was gone and the creature was gone. Edgar quickly let go of me and Jay stood trembling at the door. He wasn’t fast enough to get her. I reached my hand out to Edgar for comfort but he pulled himself away from me wrapping his arms around his chest staring into the ground. I looked to Jay who stood mute, what could he say, what could I say.
Edgar’s brow furrowed, the harder he stared at the ground the more we could hear his screams. He shouted and balled and beat himself for what had happened to Estella. He was crying with no tears and Jay and I along with him. We have seen so much pain here tonight but the look of failure on Edgars face was enough to push us over the brink. I tried to speak to him and Jay caught me. “Eddy, you didn’t know.” Jay stood behind me, him and me both looking to Edgar. Jay was acting as my support now, he knew I didn’t have the words for him.
Edgar looked up to us, his face contorting with his grief. “She died Scared and alone.” Edgar coached out. His arms clung around him so tightly he could have climbed inside himself just to hide from all of this.
Jay walked around me and Edger tensed up. Although Jay was smaller than him by only a few inches he knew Jay was ten times stronger. Jay wrapped his arms around Edgar and the younger man squirmed. “She died but got to see you again. You were both here. Now. You got to say goodbye.” Edgar stopped. He relaxed into Jays embrace and even hugged back. His back shuddered with his silent sobs. Jay turned his head to me and I was struck dumb. I wasn’t good around death, I wasn’t good around crying people. I never really knew what I was supposed to do.
The boys released one another although Edgar was still in so much pain. We didn’t know why we were here or why we saw what happened to Estella, or even if it was true. But either way, this creature new how to get us weak, and it was good at it.
“Woah, no way!” Amy’s voice chirped from upstairs. While we faced off creatures from a world we’d just entered Roman and Amy had managed to make it upstairs without killing one another. Eric was already mid-way up and seemed to have not noticed Cat’s disappearance. “Do you think that’s the real one?” her voice was distorted by the walls.
Jay, Edgar and I all clambered up behind Eric. I was in front with Edger looking over my head and Jay as the rear guard. “I don’t know of anyone else being in here since, so it must be.” Roman had trailed along the upstairs corridor and into the same room as Amy.
Eric stood at the foot of the hall way shouting down. “Hey what room?” Amy flashed her mobile screen from a small room at the end of the forgotten corridor.
“Don’t worry it’s safe, there’s nothing going to break.” Eric tapped his foot on the mould infested carpet running along the corridor. The upstairs looked worse than the rest of the house. It was damp and burnt all at once. The wood was rotting and the floor creaked. There was a distinct smell of decay up here.
Eric and the rest of us moved cautiously along the corridor. Although we were not alive, at least that’s the idea for now, we still moved and thought like the living, we didn’t want to fall through a floorboard. That is, if we could fall through. There at the end of the corridor was a room, the smallest room, the box room. Eric swung the door open to reveal Roman and Amy scanning their phones up and down its walls. “What’s the real thing?” Eric asked confused, his dated mobile had little light on it and only showed its blurry text.
Amy and Roman both shone their modern devices up to the ceiling. Up there the roof had caved in leaving only the rafters. In the middle of the room, from one of the stronger looking beams swung a stunted knot of rope tied tight to the house.
Chapter four: Who are we?
The swinging rope was frayed but clearly cut straight, it swung from a dipping attic floorboard now splintering apart. Eric collected a stick from the mulching pile of leaves that had blown in from the broken window sitting in the middle of the box room. The smashed window also looked out onto nothing but grey blocks. Swinging the stick above his head Eric caught the end of the rope a few times letting it sway. “What do you think it is?” he asked still poking at it.
Roman and Amy creaked around the room shedding light on the pulled up carpet and moulding flooring. The built in wardrobes had been ripped out leaving nothing but empty spaces now home to all manners of creepy crawlies and nightmarish insects. A hornet’s nest long since abandoned was now home to a cluster of different bug species. Amy recoiled each time her phone light disturbed a resting beast. The long slender legs of the radioactive size spiders scuttled and crumpled into a ball when the push of her breath hit them. Roman simply swatted away anything near his face and pressed his boot to anything crazy enough to creep along the floor.
Roman took the stick from Eric managing to reach the knot at the top of the rope. “Probably had one of those hanging chairs.” Amy pipped in standing in a more open area of the room, her arms pressed firmly to her, so as to not come in contact with any of the creatures walking the walls of the room.
Roman just grunted in agreement. “Knot is very well. Must be a professor done.” He gave the board the rope was attached to a poke with the stick and it in turn creaked dipping a little lower.
“Professionally done.” Eric corrected him chuckling. “Dumb arse.” He’s barely got to laughing again before Roman held him by the scruff of his neck against an insect ridden wall. “Hey, Hey, Hey!” Eric held his hands up to Roman trying to calm him down.
“If blood of a virgin is needed to get us out of here, I offer them 8 pints of yours.” Romans knuckles turned white gripping Eric’s hoodie.
“Actually there’s about 10 pints in a fully grown male.” Roman growled out at Eric slamming him hard against the wall sending a barrage of crawlers flying onto the floor. This invasion of science fiction insects made Amy squeal a blood curdling scream. Her feet stomped along the floor like the chorus of River Dance. “Wait!” Eric shrieked in a manner most emasculating. “What if some dude, like, bit it on the rope.” Eric chuckled nervously. Roman unclenched his fists and dropped Eric to the floor.
“Hey that would make sense.” Amy flashed her mobile at the boys. “Maybe that’s what it was downstairs? Like, what if this place is haunted because someone hung themselves here.” It wasn’t the worst idea they’d had all night. As soon as Amy suggested the idea Roman and Eric both took a few rather large steps back from the rope. Seems the idea of dragging people back from the dead is fine but actually being in the place they died is for some reason scary.
“Well they’re not wrong.” Jay stood towering over Edgar and me as we hovered around the entrance of the room. Edgar and I both jumped when Jay’s bombing voice came from over the top of us.
“It doesn’t mean they’re right either.” Edgar had his hand wrapped round his chin in his professor pose. He did this when he was trying to solve a puzzle. When there was a conundrum to be figured out and a problem to be fixed. His shirt sleeves were pushed up higher on his arms and he was like a cat ready to pounce. “Surely whatever is keeping us here is a malevolent spirit. By that logic if someone killed themselves here then continued to haunt the place they would have to be a serial killer who killed kittens on the side. Or, someone who had a lot of anger at the world. Of course none of this explains anything that’s happened.” Edgar always had large gestures to accompany his lectures tone. Edgar was uneasy in this room. He looked clearly flustered and strained begin in here. He stayed clear of the rope. Death and mortal wounding was never a good subject to bring up around him. He hated all things death related. Unless it was a masked slasher in a horror movie.
Jay stood dumb for a moment looking out blankly at the scene. “Then why say it?” Don’t question Edgar when he’s thinking.
“Because, one of us needs to figure out why and how the hell we got here!” Edgar folded his fingers around the back of his head with an annoyed grunt. Jay knew it was nothing personal. We’d all known Edgar long enough to know the one thing that really ate at him was when there was a problem he couldn’t figure out.
“What about that circle dude? Maybe this is our circle? Or even, our triangle, since there’s only three of us.” Edgar went to correct Jay but as he opened his mouth, his words failed him. Sometimes Jay was right, sometimes Jay was wrong, sometimes Jay was so wrong he was right.
Eric, Amy and Roman had spent sufficient time dumb struck by one idea conjured up by a tiny piece of rope. When the grand awe of that idea faded they started to wonder again. We stepped aside to let them pass and instead chose to hang around in this one room. If there was anything interesting to be found in the other rooms we were sure we would hear Amy scream, Roman use unknown Russian profanities and Eric say something along the likes of a dragged out “Dude.” We each chose a wall and slumped against it. There was no feeling of dread, and no gut churning notion that that thing was coming back any time soon. With the impending thought of the great beyond and our mortal demise all these bugs and beasties didn’t seem all that scary anymore. In fact, they all seemed to scurry away from us.
I sat by a wall to the left, Edgar under the window facing the door that was looking out onto the hallway and Jay fiddled about in the old cupboards on the wall adjacent to the door. The boards that used to be shelves had all fallen down and Jay had reached his hand down the back of them. Fiddling and grunting for a moment he pulled back his hand. “Got it.” In his hand was a miniature blue football. “I dropped this down there when I was a kid. Needed long arms to get it.” He threw it into the air catching it on the return. “Catch.” He tossed it across the room to me.
Slightly muffled I caught it out of surprise. “Or you needed to be dead.” I nodded my head to Edgar then threw the ball his way.
“What do you mean?” Edgar threw it back to jay who was now slumped on the floor. We started a game of pass that continued round the three of us. It was calming. Like if we could all sit playing catch, the world couldn’t be that bad.
I caught the ball from Jay turning it in my hands. “Well what If this is actually still lost its just you needed to be dead to find it.”
“So like, when you’re dead you can find the things you lost in life?” Jay asked as the ball landed in Edgars hands.
“That could go a lot deeper. Maybe we’re stuck here to find the things we lost.” Edgar rolled it across the floor to Jay.
Jay then spread his legs out on the floor, and we both followed suit. Rolling the ball between us. “So who’s the crypt keeper then?”
“Death.” Edgar and I chimed together. Looking up at one another.
Jay just laughed at is rolling the ball to me. “Well at least he didn’t go for the black guy first this time.”
We chuckled and Edgar threw the ball back at Jay. “Oh shut up, you’re as big as a brick shit house. No one has ever made a racist comment to you and lived.” Jay just nodded laughing.
“What’s wrong gum drop? Finding it hard to life up to expectations?” I winked at him in the most obvious way I could. He rolled the ball to me.
“Why don’t you come find out?” He raised his eyebrows with a smirk. That sent the three of us into a fit of laughter. Looking at one another we didn’t feel scared but safe. The laughter turned into chuckling and the chuckling died down. Still rolling the ball between us.
“I wonder if my thesis was accepted…” Edgar had raised a knee and was now talking into it. His eyes had become fixated with the door across the hall. Eric, Amy and Roman were peeking into the attic now, daring each other to go in. “Is it Doctor Ruckshaw on my gravestone”
“I thought you were doing your masters?” I asked a little confused.
“I was, I got it. I didn’t tell Estella because the more degrees I got the more she wanted me to do her taxes.” Jay let out a deep laugh, he knew Eddy would never stand up to his sister but this was as close as the kid had got.
“I’ll never see Ben again.” Jay stopped laughing at that thought.
“Wow.” I giggled. “You’re thinking about your drinking buddy? What about your girlfriend?” Jay just smiled scratching the back of his head. Jay and Ben had been like brothers ever since high school finished. He was a lot like Edgar but did go to the gym more often. “What about you? Who do you miss?”
I paused for a moment. I didn’t have anyone. Anyone who ever meant something to me was here, with me. “I thought I’d see my dad again. I guess it doesn’t work like that.” Jay swallowed hard, I felt bad for him that was an awkward and depressing answer. I had to think of something to change the conversation. “Wait, Estella was murdered by her boyfriend?”
Edgar looked up at me as if I had just spit on her grave. “Thanks for reminding me.” His eyes narrowed in in disgust.
“No listen.” She was murdered, alone, in her apartment. I waited.
The clogs turned and in a flash Edgar’s eyes lit up. “She didn’t die with us. We didn’t die together.” He almost looked to be harbouring a small smirk behind that patchy week old stubble.
“So?” Jay asked looking to him for answers, the same look he coined in senior year chemistry.
“So how are we all together?” I answered him.
“I thought it was because of those kids having our stuff?” Damn it. I forgot about that. There goes my theory. We were only here because those kids decided to party with the partly passed on.
“That only explains how we got here.” Professor Edgar to the rescue. “We were together before they dragged us here.”
I looked to Edgar with wide eyes. At this precise moment I was scared. “I forgot about that.” I spoke so lowly I’m surprised he hear me. Jay nodded his head, equally as startled as me. We looked to Edgar who seemed to be as shocked at his own memory as we were.
“That defiantly happ…” Jay and I both nodded furiously in agreement. I tapped the floor and Jay rolled the ball to me.
“What the fuck was that!” Edgar’s vision snapped up to see a hysterical Eric in the doorway watching a small blue football being passed around the room from wall to wall. Amy and Roman had moved quickly behind him. Jay crawled briskly across the floor trying to grab the ball to stop it rolling. Unfortunately for him, he stopped it slap bang in the middle of the room.
Eric, Amy and Roman all fell over one another getting into the room across the hall and slamming the door shut. Jay’s shoulders bounced as he tried to hold in his laughter. We could hear the three kids behind the door whispering. Leaving the ball where it was we all gathered around the door. Edgar stood between Jay and me holding a finger in the air to silence us. He scrunched his hand into a fist and held it just out from the door. Rapping on it twice we stood silent. There was a yelp and a few squeals from the other side. Edgar knocked again. He taped a few times lightly, until the squealing had gone down.
“Who’s there?” Amy’s voice squeaked. Edgar tapped and marked with the back of his nails a series of dots and dashes. . -.. –. .- .-. / .-. ..- -.-. -.- … …. .- .–
“Not everyone speaks Morse code Eddy” He mothed an o before continuing his Shakespearian size explanation.
Roman sat on the other side of the door watching the commotion ensue. “One for yes two for no. Do you understand?” Edgar banged once on the door.
The trio behind it jumped into action. The three of them cowering on the other side of the room all looking at the mystical door to the great beyond. “Are you going to hurt us?” Eric asked with a shaky voice. Edgar knocked twice. There was a sigh of relief.
“Are you dead?” Amy asked, cowering behind Eric, who was cowering behind Roman. Edgar wasn’t sure to knock. So jay banged once. Edgar although logical, was still finding it hard to admit we were on the wrong side of the gravestone. He wasn’t ready yet to give up life. “Did you die here?” Amy continued.
We looked to one another, did we die here? Estella didn’t, we didn’t know if Diary did. We didn’t know if any of us did. I had my back against the door, Edgar had slid down it and jay was leaning against the wall on the other side. I knocked three times. There was a muffled sound of confusion. “Does that mean you don’t know?” Roman asked. We knocked twice. They thought for a moment. “Have you locked us in this house?” He asked. We knocked twice again. There was another sigh of relief.
“Are you stuck here too?” Eric pipped in. His voice less shaky now. With a weak hand, I knocked once. “Is there something else keeping us here?” He asked in almost a whisper. Edgar threw his hand back, knocking the door once.
“Do you know what is?” Amy asked with a stutter. We didn’t. We looked to one another with a shrug. We didn’t know what had stolen our friends. We didn’t know why it was coming for us, we didn’t know anything that was going on. This lack of information was really getting to Edgar now. He was tense and nervous. There was never anything he didn’t know. This unease from Edgar was putting Jay in a vulnerable position. He had his brawn but you couldn’t punch a ghost. With Edgar unhinged he had lost his brains.
I tapped twice. We could speculate all we wanted but we didn’t know what was keeping us here. “What do you think it is?” Jay asked. He had leaned his head against the wall but was not looking at me. Edgar sat between us fixated with his shoes. Leather, Italian made. He swore by them, this man would spend £20 on a month’s food and his entire months’ pay of £1,300 on a pair of Italian shoes. We still had no real idea what he did for a job.
Edgar looked up to Jay, the strong ebony man had been the envy of their friends for as long as they’d hit puberty. Jay could charm anyone, man, woman or child. He wouldn’t need to take candy from a baby he would be offered it, just for a smile. This man held his muscle very well, anything he wore made him look like a Calvin Klein model. He was the prime example of the age old philosophy that beauty will get you everything in life. He was rich, because he was beautiful. He would have given it all away to be smart, well, Edgar smart. “The reaper.” I finally replied.
I just nodded in agreement with myself. I doubted it would be the Devil itself, if it was the Devil where else would it be taking us. It must be one of the Devils little minions. Unless… “What if it’s redemption?” Our heads quickly turned to Edgar. “What if that is actually an Angel and we have to suffer to move onto the next place?”
“Ed shut the fuck up.” Jay snapped. I was taken aback, Jay was usually the last to break. He joked when his parents died and joked when he thought he would lose his leg after a skiing accident when he was 17. He said he could be a great pirate. Jay shook his head sliding down to sit next to Eddy. He put his hand on Eddy’s shoulder and patted. “I’m sorry man. I just don’t see how this can be anything other than bad.”
Edgar tapped Jays hand in acceptance. “I hope you’re wrong.”
Jay nodded back. “Me too man.”
“How many of you are there?” Roman said, his voice sounded closer to the door than before. We looked to one another and each nodded. I rapped the back of my knuckle on the door three times. “Same here.” Roman spoke in hushed tones. The three kids started to talk amongst themselves of plans of escape and possible ways out. The three of us on the other hand had given in. We knew deep down we weren’t getting out of here. We knew we would have to face whatever that thing brought us.
“What can Ghosts do?” Jay asked blankly. His sharpness had left him when he realised we were all trying to avoid the idea that things can only get worse from here.
Edgar and I both thought for a minute. What could ghosts do? We’d seen all the horror movies on our many family nights. Family nights where when we’d all get to get at one of our houses and just watch a few horror’s with a tone of popcorn. Diary always hid behind Jay when the music started to get loud. Estella spent her time on her phone talking to anyone who wasn’t us and Edgar and I would always be the closest to the television set eager to be the first to see the slasher killer. “We can pick things up.” I started to list off the things we could already do. “They can hear us, and sort of see us. They can feel us.” I creeped my hand over Edgar’s hair like a spider. He flinched smacking me away.
“Walk through walls?” Edgar suggested. “Walk through walls, move furniture, levitate?” the boys stood up. We might as well give them a go. It’s not like we could do anything else.
We stood on the opposite wall facing the door with the kids behind it. Jay squared up his shoulders leaning towards the door. He rocked back and forth on his heals getting himself ready. One, two three. He ran at the door side on, jumping and slammed straight into it. The door shuddered but held firm. The kids on the other side let out little squeals as they scattered to the side. Jay held his arm chuckling to himself. Edgar and I just laughed at him but mostly at the pathetic peeps coming from the kids in the other room. “We cannot walk through walls.” Jay nodded still clutching his arm. “I don’t know why I’m doing this.” He noted. “It doesn’t hurt.”
“It’s probably just a reaction, your mind expected it to hurt.” Jay just stared at Edgar cocking his eyebrows every few seconds. Edgar finally took the hint. “Fine. Furniture was it?” Jay nodded with his arrogant smirk. Edgar rubbed the back of his neck looking into the room we were in. The small blue football sat in the middle of the floor gleaming to him. It begged him in, the light blue, thick bumpy texture was begging to be lifted from the floor. Edgar cracked his fingers and pushed his hands out in front of him. Concentrating hard on the ball he locked his arms in position begging the ball to come closer. He tried and tried, the strain was easy to see on his face, I’m sure a vein would have popped by now, if it could.
Jay let go of his arm walking round the side of Edgar. He stood next to the door way watching the youngers concentration unwavering. A good three minutes had passed and Edgar was still at it. Jay began to look worried. His friend’s arms had been outstretched fingers out like talon’s stretching to uncomfortable lengths. Jay finally had enough of this and stepped in front of Edgar with two words. “Jazz hands” Jay burst out laughing as Edgars face dropped. He stuck his tongue out into the middle of his cheek turning away from Jay. “Even when you’re dead you can’t catch a ball.” Jay patted Edgars shoulder and the two chuckled silently.
“My turn then?” I kicked one leg in front of me bouncing into an over dramatic lunge. Repeated again with the other. A few squats later I was ready. Clicking my neck from side to side I jumped into position. Splaying my hands out beside me I close my eyes to concentrate. Taking in deep breaths and blowing them out, I pushed every muscle in my body down. Lifting from my heels onto my toes I willed myself up. I wasn’t sure what sort of feeling or strength I was looking for but I was certain it wasn’t there. If will alone could lift me from the floor I would be hitting the celling. Levitation was a no. I peeked one eye open to see Jay and Edgar both looking at me for some sign of hope. I dropped back onto my heels and slumped my shoulders down. Shaking my head the boys lost hope too. We didn’t have any supernatural powers.
It was a bummer really. If we were dead the least they could do was give us some cool super hero powers.
We all stretched out after it and sat back down lining the hallway. “Are you tired?” Edgar asked looking to Jay.
Jay in turn looked confused. “No, I… I don’t think so.” Time seemed to have stopped since we were here. We didn’t grow tired, we weren’t hungry, and we didn’t sweat or run out of breath. We ceased to be human, in essence we were no longer hindered by the everyday limits of our bodies and we were no long human beings.
“What are they doing in there?” I asked. The kids had all gone quiet. There was a few bumps and scrapes but they were no longer screaming or asking us questions.
“They are trying to shimmy the window open. They’ve been doing it for the past ten minutes.” Edgar rested his head against the wall. He held a finger to his lips silencing us. “Listen.” He pointed back to the door. Beyond the door there was a rattling of an old window handle and a few aggravated grunts when their attempts were in vain. “See.” Only Edgar could have bat hearing during a time like this.
“I have a hypotenuse.” Jay sprung forward and Edgar and I just looked to one another.
“What?” We said in unison both of our brows contorting into misshapen lines.
“The idea thing.” Jay waved his hands in a gesture showing his frustration in not knowing the right words.
“Hypothesis?” Edgar offered.
Jay shook a pointed finger at him. “That’s it!” We urged him to continue to his idea. “What if Esty got out because she tied to save that little chick? Like she was only saved because she tried to help her out. Diary was caught without helping anyone so maybe that it. That could work right?” Edgar and I looked to one another both hopeful of the idea. That might work. Jay might be right. This could be a real possibility. We are here to save them. There are three of us and three of them. We are their guardian angels. There was a rush of relief amongst us. We were not here for purgatory we were here to act as saviours.
Chapter five: We’re not all the same.
Now was Edgar’s time to shine, we had our theory. If we help these kids escape whatever it is that’s haunting us we get to go free. It might not have been right but it was the best one we had. We got to our feet all of us together. “Jay do you think you could get them to see you again?” Edgar asked as he and I took a step away from the door.
“Maybe. Do you think they’d listen though?” Jay stretched out his shoulders. “I don’t remember how I did it the first time.”
“You have to get angry, you have to want them to see you.” I offered him. To be fair, none of us really knew how he did it in the first place.
“Here goes.” Jay shrugged. He took a moment readying himself. Then he slammed his fist hard against the door, shaking it to the frame. “Come out.” Jay bellowed. For a man who was into hip hop he would sure be great at screamo. The veins pulsed at the side of his neck as he yelled though gritted teeth. The squeaks of terror from the other side of the door told us all we needed to know. They heard him. Jay turned around in a groggy voice. “Was that ok?” He asked spluttering.
“Perfect.” I gave him the ok sign before patting his shoulders. Jay held his throat coughing a few times.
“Just one problem…” We looked to Edgar. “You’ve scared the shit out of them.” You know just once he won’t feel the need to point out how we messed up, but he was right, the loud crashing and that pretty damn metal scream would be enough to terrify anyone. “There’s no way they are going to open the door n…” And with that as if by some divine miracle the door came creaking open. There in the slither of a space between the door and the wall stood in a line, Roman, Amy and Eric.
“Idiots.” Edgar and I breathed together.
“I thought that was what you wanted?” Jay asked still wincing at his neck.
Edgar just glared at him. I don’t know what it was but in this situation where he had an idea Edgar became more dominant than I had ever seen him before. “What type of moron opens the door to some giant booming voice on the other end?”
“Clearly you have never heard Corey Taylor…” The boys just looked at me in bemusement. “Its.. uh.. slipkno…never mind.” A few choice glances were passed between the two.
“Since when do you like that stuff? All the musicians you like are dead.” Jay pointed over his shoulder to Edgar. “Same with Eton over here.”
“Hey!” Edgar chipped in with a scowl.
“Back?” Jay offered with his tongue in his cheek.
“Bach.” Edgar corrected with a sigh.
“Dead?” Jay asked not even looking back at him looking to me with a smirk.
“Dead.” Edgar agreed.
“Exactly.” Jay folded his arms in a smug victory. “So since when did you like that stuff? Thought you said they all sounded like bitching little girls on their periods?”
Screwing up my face, unwilling to admit I’d changed my long standing opinion I offered “Well you know what it’s like, a friend plays one song over and over, then you realise you actually now know the words to said song. So you download it, listen to it, maybe check out a few more, and then a few more albums and before you know it you’ve seen them in concert three times and have seven of their t-shirts.” All that came out in one blast. Jay’s smug grin spread.
“Someone finally corrupted your music taste.” Biting my tongue I wanted to slap him so badly.
“Anyway.” I continued. “Don’t we have bigger things to be worrying about here?” I swayed my arms to the three kids still looking out into the hallway ready to attack whatever form of boogie man came for them.
“I suppose we do.” Edgar covering his hand over his mouth with a stern furrowed brow. “Right, Jay, you think we can get out of here by saving one of them. What do we base that theory on?” Jay pursed his lips dropping his hands to his sides. With a few quick glances to me and nod of the head he looked to be asking if Edgar had just somehow missed everything that had been going on. “I’m not crazy.” Eddy stopped him. “I just do things methodically. So what is our evidence?”
“Esty was given a send of when she tried to help that chick but Diary was…” Jay felt squeamish. He was the last of us to flinch at something gory but to think of his friend in that way churned something deep in his stomach.
“Diary has made no attempt to save anyone and therefore was either easy pickings or could not fulfil her roll here.” I hopped in to help Jay who seemed to struggle for the right words.
“That still doesn’t explain why Diary was with us if it was your trinkety idea.” Jay pointed to Edgar still trying to figure everything out. Then again, we all were.
“We can ponder that when we figure out how to get out of here.” Edgar, now switching to the scientist he was, was studying the three prospectus candidates for experimentation. “So the Hypothesis?”
“Helping those kids get out of here will save us from Diary’s fate.” I answered Eddy, I too had started to eye up the unwilling but had to be used subjects.
“And the null?” Edgar added.
“The null is that helping these kids out of the house has no effect on our being imprisoned here, and what happened to Diary, we’ll have to figure out later.” Jay towered over us, the three of us joint in stair, watching these kids. A long conversation had taken only a few seconds between us. It all blurred in now I wasn’t sure if we were speaking or thinking.
“That doesn’t sound very sciency.” Jay mumbled. We agreed.
“I know.” Edgar nodded. “But it’s the best we have.” He dropped his hand from his face and turned back to us. “Shall we get to work?” We nodded slowly, none of us really knowing what we should be doing.
The three sat still in their awkward que, Lambs to the slaughter. “Why haven’t they moved?” Jay whispered leaning into me. “Like, you would have thought they would bolt for the door.” The deliberation going on in his mind showed on his face. “Well I would have.”
“Of course, you would have” I hissed back. “No one is standing in your way if you run at ‘em, living or dead.” Jay Chuckled. His stature and muscles where his greatest achievement, he wouldn’t admit it but there where very much a literal and emotional shield.
“The independent variable in this situation would be, or the one I can best smise from this situation, is that if we change the participants whereabouts to an exist it will affect, dependant variable, our being in this, house.” Edgars face pulled and stretched as his summary of this scientific method was severely… over reaching.
“Ed, man, I love ya’, I know you’re the kid genius here but what you said sounds like a load of…” Jay’s lip had curled, and his voice softened in an attempt to soften the blow to Ed’s intellect. The blow was somewhat expected as Ed cut him off rather abruptly.
“I Know! I know.” Edgars eye had begun to twitch. He hated being told he was wrong. Well, it wasn’t that he hated being told he was wrong, he hated being wrong and not knowing the answer. “It’s the best I have right now, so can we just…”
Jays hands flew up and I stayed snug behind his back. I did not envy either of these men, they carried specific weights of the group on their shoulders. Jay had to be the protector and Edgar had to know everything. I just had to show up and pay for a round of drinks. I didn’t offer much.
“What the fuck is going on here.” Roman breathed in a tone quieter than a whisper. The three of them had stayed cowered together in a line for far longer than any of us had thought they would. Amy and Eric behind her stood close but were ready at any moment to jump back to leave their comrade to whatever foul creature would like to spring forth from the stairwell.
Eric stood at the back shaking the most. His puppy dog eyes pleading in the mobile phone lit darkness ahead of him. He dared not look back for fear the keeper of the booming voice was standing there but still he cared not to keep looking on. “This is some Scooby Doo shit man. Where’s the most haunted team?”
“Fuck off Shaggy!” Amy hissed back at him over her shoulder. Her snarl gave face to her true fear. Roman was tough, Eric joked his way out of everything and Amy was looking for her own way out. At any cost. There was a squeak and a scuttle as a mouse made its way along the rotten old floor boards, the three jumped in unison each frantically shining their light to find the source of the noise.
Of course, the mouse scared them…
“How do we do it?” I asked looking to Edgar, our little trio had gathered around the door watching the kids freak out over a mouse. Surprisingly we could see them quite clearly, the three of them and the mouse. I suppose there were some perks to being dead.
“The door worked last time.” Jay offered. His eyes were glued to the mouse running up and down the woodwork squeaking in chorus with the screeching teens. “Can we not just get them downstairs and out the door?”
Edgar pondered for a moment. It felt as if Jay and I were his lab assistances helping out our professor on one of his excursions. “The door did work, but will that thing be expecting us to use the door?”
“It’s the only viable option we’ve seen work, besides the windows aren’t offering us much in the way of a quick escape.” Of course I was referring to the fact that for us the windows were walled up and impenetrable. We weren’t breaking through them.
“Right, we get to the door, wait for that thing to show up, open the door and…” Edgar paused for a moment, the clogs turning in his head, ticking away like the little machine he was. “Maybe it works with one person at a time. After all there’s three of us and three of them. It would make sense.”
“So who’s going to go first?” Jay asked, leaning his large frame against that of the waning door. Its hinges creaked a little sending it easing back, each micro movement of the door rang out like a chorus of bells. This send the three kids into a state of frantic screaming and huddling in the corner. Jay, still only watching the mouse.
“Who wants to give it a go?” Jay continued. Both Edgar and I looking rather sheepish now. Being the ones to execute the assignment was all fun and games but actually having to come face to face with that thing again was rather daunting.
“I’ll do it?” I offered unsure if I was answering or asking. “Edgar you know how to analyse all of this stuff there’s no point you risking it, Jay you’re the only one of us they’ve heard or seen… I’ll do it.” I knew in my mind it was the right thing to do to offer myself up as sacrifice but it still didn’t make it any easier.
“Nim we don’t know what happens after this.” Edgar added, his hand reaching out to my arm but just falling short of actually holding it. “I don’t know where Estella or Diary went I don’t know if what we saw was real. I don’t know where you’ll end up.”
“I know Eddy.” I took his hand covering it, partly, with both of mine. “But let’s face it.” I said with as much cockiness as I could muster. “Out of the three of us, it’s me that big bastards more likely to run away from.” That earned me a chuckle from the lads. It was no secret that of the group, I was the one more likely to say what needed said regardless of people’s feelings. What needed done needed done.
I felt a big hand club my shoulder. My gaze broke from Eddy to Jay, towering over me. “I’m goin’ Nim.” He’d made his mind up. “You two are smart. Well Ed’s smart, you’re a sarcy bitch.” He smirked. “I’ll hold on longer than both of you. Whatever’s on the other side I can handle it, you two are a pair of pipe cleaners wrapped in a tissue.” I went to speak to him but Jay just hushed me. “Besides you’re meant to sacrifice the most beautiful person first anyway, but since Esty’s gone, I guess I’ll have to do it.” Jay fluttered his eye lashes. Although smiling, those eyes were holding back welling of tears.
We both nodded to him, he was making a heroic sacrifice for his friends and none of us wanted to admit we were afraid. “Who are you saving?” Edgar asked. His way of avoiding emotion was running from it. Make everything clinical and you won’t get attached. This practice never actually worked.
“I don’t know Ed.” Jay replied eyeing up the potential saves.
“Take Roman.” I interjected. There were three of them and three of us. Two boys and a girl. We had to pair up to our match. Or at least that was my understanding of it. “He’s most like you. Eric’s like Edgar and… Well I guess I’m bitch face.” Jay chuckled.
“How on earth can you compare me to a junkie?” Edgar exclaimed infuriated at the insult.
“Chill out Ed weed never hurt nobody, besides look at all those pills they made you take when they thought you were you know…” He circled his finger around his temple. When Edgar was younger his brains got him in more trouble than he intended. His mother worried about him and took him to a lovely doctor who put him on a whole bunch of meds meant to help those with spectrum disorders. Turns out Ed didn’t have anything like that, he was just a smartass. Jay slammed his shovel like hands down on Edgars back with a genuine smile. Perhaps the last smile I would ever see of his.
“Roman it is.” Edgar spat out in a huff.
“So what is the actual plan?” Jay hooked his arm around a cringing Edgars shoulders. It was a small scene of little consequence but just seeing the two men act the way we use to, the way we did when we were alive. That thought rang hard and true, we were dead. We are dead. We’ve spared no thought to what could have been, what should have been, we’ve just stuck together. I wish we were all together one more time so at least then I could tell them how much all of this has meant. But I don’t know if we’ll ever be together again. Now is the time I wonder, is there a heaven, is there a hell? Which one are we destined for?
“Right.” Edgar started. He forward paced into the room, being sure to stay away from our unwilling test subjects so not to spook them. “We need to find a way to get you and Roman down stairs and by that door.” He thought for a minute drumming his fingers together, in fifty years’ time there would be no doubt Edgar could easily resemble Mr. C. Montgomery Burns. “Scare him.” Edgar finally concluded.
“What?” I looked to him puzzled. How the hell was that going to work?
“We need to split the group up, clearly they’re stupid enough to open the door to the boogie man so maybe we can split them up by scaring them.” It was indeed a viable solution but it still seemed pretty harsh.
“What if we just entice him away?” I offered. It wasn’t the best idea I’d had but hey it was worth a go.
“How do we do that?” Jay asked. He wasn’t paying much attention to us, rather, he was watching the three kids cower under the almighty strength of a mouse.
Ah yes, now was time for my master plan. Now I could explain to them exactly how my plan was going to work. One problem, I had no idea how it was supposed to work. “I don’t know.” I admitted rather sheepishly. “Can you lure Roman away from the others?” I asked Jay in a pathetic pleading voice.
“I don’t know how. Do you think he would follow me if I showed up to him again?” Jay, still fixated on the little mouse burying away in the corner.
“It’s worth a go.” I shrugged. Edgar didn’t look impressed. “Isn’t it?”
Eddy gave in with a begrudged nod. I know he was sick of dealing with us by now. “We’ll give it a go. If that doesn’t work we scare him downstairs. Agreed?”
“Agreed.” Jay and I both chimed in together.
A shriek came from the other end of the room as the three were now huddled up together watching the rodent sit peacefully, eating whatever it was he’d found. “Get it away from me!” Eric’s high pitched voice squeaked.
“Oh, it’s just a mouse!” Amy shoved him off of her. He’d left a lovely line of saliva where he’d buried his head into her back. She was now brushing this off furiously.
Roman was the closest to the mouse, standing over it from a distance. “Maybe we not should go near it.” The more time wore on the more of his mother tongue came back to him. His voice before sounding far more English than it did now. Turning his nose up at it he hesitantly stepped back.
We walked over to them, the three off us towering over the three of them. “How do we know if it’s worked?” Asked Jay.
“I guess it will depend on if you get… you know… out, and if Roman gets out.” I looked to Edgar for confirmation. I wasn’t sure on what exactly my roll was in the group. Jay brought home the brawns, Edgar the brains and I, was I just comic relief?
“We have to take it that Estella’s…death or re-death was the right way out and Diary’s…” We all stood sullen for a moment, in the heat of all the panic we’d forgotten our fallen comrade who, by all accounts, had suffered a fate worse than death.
“Get out without burning.” I interjected. Their two heads popping up with stern expressions of motivation. We had to give this a go. Anything that would help us escape this place was surly worth it, wasn’t it?
We stood in position. Jay wedged between Roman and the other two. Edgar standing at the edge of the hallway looking down the stairs. I was standing at the pinnacle of the triangle ready to jump in and give the chills to anyone who wasn’t supposed to run. We had grown to know that we moved a lot faster than the kids, our entire conversations were over in nanoseconds. I guess that explains at lot when it comes to horror movies. If ghosts live in a faster paced time no wonder they can bugger off up the stairs in the flash of a second. But now we stood ready to fight. “Ready Jay?” I asked bending down as if I was going into a rugby scrum, I don’t know why.
“Ichabod…” Jay replied. A muffled sound under his breath.
“Are you still looking at that freaking mouse?” Eddy yelped from the hallway. I knew being out there alone gave him the heebie jeebies.
Jay snapped out of his trace and looked back to me, with a nod, he was ready. None of us knew how Jay did it, Jay didn’t even know how Jay did it but he mustered what strength he did have concentrating it solely on the Russian. Call it what you will Jay pulled whatever he had in him, from the bottom of his boots he pulled it up. As if holding a great weight his muscles started to tense. The veins in his neck started to pulse and bulge.
Each crumbly bite seemed to get louder and louder. The mouse tore into the rotten left over from years gone by the remanence of which fell from its already full cheeks and onto the floor. It squeaked at odd intervals between the mindless chewing. “I want to go home.” Eric looked for longingly into the dark stairwell, himself unaware of the commotion going on around his ears. As the ghosts of time since passed paced around him hatching plans, it was this one boy who looked far more lost than any ghoul or spectre in this house. His eyes had dimmed down from a fear of the unknown to a man almost not there. His melancholy was not to last for long.
There in the LCD lit darkness the only object that were clear to see where those directly in the light. Everything else was shadow. There huddled in their group the three children were about to see so much more than they had ever hoped. For there in the darkness came a light. But the light wasn’t a light. More so it faded the dark around it. In one burst came the face of a screaming soul. Like jagged electricity spikes of humid white broke though the shadows. The near seven foot exploding star came with the greying face of Jay Curby, an impossible sight. The man stood before them like a rendition of Jacob Marley screaming with no sound… and then there was.
“Roman…Run…” That voice didn’t boom like last time. Instead it reached and shook, it was forced and in pain, it was pleading. The apparition flashed bright before being consumed all too quickly by the darkness it came from. The thumping heartbeats of the children sounded so tortured and heavy one could expect them to leap out of their chests at any moment. There was a pause, and in that pause three children sat mute. Unable to process anything but utter fear. The petrified teens weren’t the clichés from a horror movie, these were children cherishing every moment of their lives they had spent happy up to this point and wishing so much that they could return to that.
“Run!” This time, Roman ran, he ran so fast. This time his feet, unsure if they were even hitting the floor spirited him through the door knocking him against every wall and banister on the way to the stairs. We side stepped him, the three of us moved aside for the boy running for his life. There was a kind of humbling feeling, it was surreal, an image broadcast on the news in some war-torn country, not a kid right in front of you. He did not slip nor trip at all on his trip down the stairs. It was somewhat impressive. He wasn’t screaming. I don’t know why that was stuck out to me, he was running for his life, but he didn’t make a sound, I couldn’t even hear him breathe. I think if he had any other though in his head other than ‘run’ he would have pissed himself.
Jay moved slowly, his eyes never left the boy. He did not stammer or shake, his hands where firm in their decision, his mind focused. He had accepted his fate with far more solemn dignity than I would be able to. That I think was my greatest moment of adoration for Jay Curby. He plunged himself into the unknow, into almost certain death, for his friends. This fate would very soon be my own, but his sacrifice gave me time of my own to bide my mind to its fate.
As soon as Jay’s foot brushed the last step, the whirling, wheezing, sickness of the monster cloaked in mist made its presence known. The inside out world that we now knew had an unforgettable memory of this creature embedded into its very fibres. Jay’s shoulders jerked violently but the rest of him remained still. His fear of this creature was taking grip, but God bless him he stayed strong. In this place the one thing that truly rooted us to our dissipating humanity, was something that we had now come to accept crossed the mortal coils into whatever side of the grave we were on. Fear. Fear held our ghostly hands and shackled us to the part of life we all wished to forget.
As though the oncoming storm was nothing, but a light breeze Jay pushed forward with his task. The stagnant air built up around him and he faced it head on. Roman stood in a lunged position, grasping and pounding on the door desperately trying to escape whatever fate he felt was nearing him. In a moment of laxed morality one could look at this situation and see what could be the world of a murder, to look upon, in detachment, the last moments of a person whose irrepressible nightmares had come to life. This was the part of the human state few had witnessed, what could be the climactic moments of someone in absolute fear’s life. Beautiful, in a macabre way.
Roman’s hands held tight on the door knob as he pulled with all the strength he had and more. He pulled with strength he did not have and strength he was borrowing from the future, a strength he would repay himself, given the chance.
As had become custom at these moments Edgar gripped my hand tightly, we could not be scared now. Not when Jay needed us to be strong for him, he too, needed a strength to borrow from.
The whirling wind gave way to ungodly moaning. A moan so guttural and forlorn it had gathered from the bowels of hell itself. What paint remained on the walls of the front hallway began to erode and burn like a morbid time-lapse of rotting history. After the paint came the floorboards, they crumbled and cracked with a sound of burning wood. Each haunting incident drew closer the figure in mist.
Jay had positioned himself firmly behind Roman, his right shoulder facing him, ready for the charge. “I love you guys.” He spluttered out, his cheeks gleaming with stricken tears.
“You are braver than I will ever be.” Edgar replied in a hush quieter than a whisper. His hand becoming firm and utterly unmoving in my own.
Jay smiled a little, a forced smile, a smile that said ‘I should smile now but I don’t want to’. “I wish I had your brains, chopsticks.”
“You’re the one that figured all this out…” Edgar breathed, his tone said everything. “You’re smarter than all of us.” Edgar stopped, amidst all of this horror and unthinkable fear there was a moment, no longer than a heartbeat that we all just stopped to appreciate what it was we were doing, the sheer fucking idiocy of it and how stupidly brave the man in front of us was. Edgar gave his friend and the man he looked up to more than he would ever admit the last push he needed to commit his heroic act. “Now get out of here, and find me on the other side.”
Not even a breath had passed before Jay gave out his battle cry roar and with it he began his charge. As if in some mockery of his heroism the evil that stalked us made itself physical with the blood chilling shriek it gave when we first encountered it. Behind Jay, it formed itself into a ghastly visage made manifest of gas shimmers and burnt out embers. It too plunged towards Jay as Jay ran crashing into Roman.
The two of them slammed hard into the door. Roman’s face was bloody and bruised, Jay, more confused than anything was half crouched against the wall between the unopened door and the bricked front window. Roman lay on the ground spluttering and couching in pain. It didn’t even take a second for Jay to see the hellish creature flying towards him, in a moment of unthinking, Jay became the hero he always was. Forgetting his spectral limitations Jay grabbed Roman, awkwardly by the wrist and, with some callousness, threw the boy against the brick window. There was a shattering of glass and a flash of burning light, and then nothing, a bricked-up window, but no Roman.
The Nightmare in mist reached Jay who only held an arm up to his face for protection, the creature collided with him and like two meteors crashing together there was an outwards burst of fire and light. I burrowed my head into Edgars shoulder and he shielded his face in mine. Like turning a light off at night the room became much darker than it was before. Shapes and images took time to reform. In the darkness Edgar and I released each other and fondled our way through the open space in our blindness.
There was a grunt and a few deep breaths coming from in front of us. “I think I fucked it up.” Whispered out from the darkness.
“How do you fuck up dying?” I responded, turns out I would be sarcastic to any voice I hear. “Take it you’re still in the land of the dearly departed then?”
Jay chuckled, the blackness was giving way to blue tinges of night light making their way in from God knows where. “Did the kid get out?” He was still being hunted but a monster worse than fiction and he was only worried about saving someone else.
“Now you get to tell girls you threw a guy through a brick wall.” Edgar responded, still blinking wildly into the night. “Maybe don’t mention that he was like 8 though.”
“He wasn’t 8!” Jay jabbed back. “But I will use that first bit, and you’re my witness.”