The house that Leonard built
“This is the place,” Lilly declared.
Jackson put the car in park and double checked the map on his new phone, while looking out through the windshield. “How can you be sure?” he asked, staring at the dilapidated structure. The address that Carol gave them, had taken them about twelve miles south of the city of Sault Ste Marie. The two of them sat quietly in Jackson’s car, staring at, what at one point in time, must have been a very extravagant mansion. That was probably sixty years ago, Jackson thought to himself, given the current state of the building. The sun had a few hours before it was due to rise, but Jackson thought that even the light of day wouldn’t do much to change the building overall appearance.
“I’m not sure,” Lilly answered.
There was the reminisce of a tall wrought iron fence, which still encircled the property, although the weeds and underbrush, that had tangled themselves in-between, and up the fence, making the metal barrier almost invisible. In the middle of the fence, that ran along the front of the house, sat two large iron gates. One had been knocked over completely, and was laying on thick weed covered driveway, while the other seemed to be hanging on for dear life by only its top hinge, which was barley attached.
“You think it’s safe to go in there?” Jackson asked, stepping out of the car and lighting a cigarette.
“I’m sure it’s safe for me,” Lilly said, stepping through the car door, and walking up to the large gate. “But then again I’m dead.”
“Lucky you,” Jackson replied, blowing out a lungful of smoke, and turning on the flash light app on his cell phone. Taking a couple of quick drags from the cigarette, he flicked it away and walked through the gate and began to make his way up to the house. Looking back, he watched Lilly carefully tip toe though the iron bars of the fence, which made him chuckle slightly at the sight. “Man, this must have been some place back in the day.”
The building was huge. Three stories high, with large pitched roofs made of clay tiles. Large windows, with heavy wooden shutters stretched across the front of the mansion. Half the of the shutters were missing, and all of the windows were broken, and most of them were boarded up. Large vines could be seen growing up the walls, and onto the roofs. Jackson could tell that the exterior of the building was made from wood planks, but he had no idea what their original color had been. Now, the entire building was just a dull gray, expects for some sporadic splashes of color, made from the numerous spots of graffiti that people had left upon the walls over the years.
“There’s something off about this place,” Lilly stated, stepping up to a large set of ornate wooden doors.
“What do you mean?” Jackson asked.
“I feel…feel like the house is calling to me.” Lilly answered, a bit confused as to how to describe what she had just said. “It started when we were a couple of miles away. I just felt this tug, and it just kept getting stronger the closer we got.”
“Yeah, I feel something too. It’s like the air seems heavy, or something, if that makes any sense. Like we stepped into a magic bubble,” he added, looking at an old cardboard condemned sign nailed to one of the doors. “Probably just my nerves,” he said, with a quick shrug of his shoulders. “Do you want to stay out here?” Jackson asked.
“No,” Lilly answered. “But, the quicker we find Jessica and get away from this house the better.” Jackson pushed open one of the doors and disappeared from her sight. She quickly stepped through the other door, and found Jackson standing in a large open foyer area. The inside of the house looked just as bad, if not worse, than the outside. There were numerous holes in many of the visible walls, along with more graffiti. Small heaps of trash were strewn about the area, and bits of broken glass, scattered about the floors, reflected the light of Jackson’s phone, reminding the man of the stars above, shining in the night sky.
Straight ahead of them was a massive stair case that spit in two about half way up, with each end going to opposite sides of the second floor, while three large hallways could be seen from their vantage point. One to each side of the room, with the third being visible behind the ascending stair case.
“Should we split up?” Lilly asked, sensing that finding Jessica Watkins in this place was going to harder than she had originally thought.
“Are you fucking crazy?” Jackson asked. “Have you never watched a horror movie?”
“Is this your idea of a horror movie?”
“Old creepy abandoned house? Check. Ghosts?” Jackson motioned toward Lilly. “Check. Living guy going into the house to look for more ghosts? Check.”
“Touché. Any idea where we should look first?”
“Jessica Watkins!” Jackson called out. “Why should we go looking for her, when we can bring her to us.”
“Not bad,” Lilly said, with a slight nod of her head.
The sound of numerous whispering voices filed the foyer. Neither Jackson, nor Lilly, could see the source of the voices, but they sounded like they were coming from all around them.
“Did he say Jessica?”
“I think so.”
“Why does he want to speak to her?”
“Where is she.”
“She’s with him.”
“Then she’s doomed.”
“Is he one of the living?”
“Who’s the girl with him?”“I think she’s like us.”
“We should warn her.”
“We should give her to him.”
“Then he’ll leave us alone.”
Jackson and Lilly turned their heads from side to side, listening to the conversation that was taking place, but still couldn’t see who it was that was speaking. Jackson could tell that there were three distinct male voices, and one female voice. “Maybe would should leave?” Jackson suggested, taking a few steps backward.
“For once, I whole heartedly agree with you,” Lilly replied, looking up toward the second floor of the house, thinking that she had seen a bit of movement from within the shadows, just beyond the end of the stairs.
“Did you see something?” Jackson asked, directing the light from his phone, to where Lilly was looking He only saw cob webs, and the word BEES, spray painted in yellow, on the wall in large balloon like letters. Before Jackson could say anything else, the image of four ghosts appeared from nothingness, and surrounded him and Lilly.
The ghost in front of them was that of a man, who was in his late twenties. He was the color of ash, and was dressed in a soldier’s uniform. Half of his face was missing. The ghost to their left was a that of a man as well. He was older, maybe in his forties. His spirit was light gray. His skin was at one point in time, black as the night, while his clothes looked like they were from the disco era. There was a large blood stain on the front of his shirt.
The ghost to the right of them was that of a woman. She was in her thirties, and was gray like the rest of them. She was Asian, and had long straight hair black hair, and was wearing a pair of bell bottom jeans, along with a short sleeved shirt and a leather vest. She had dark circles around her eyes, and her lips were as black as her hair.
Jackson dared a looked over his shoulder, and saw that the last ghost, still had some color to him. His skin was nicely tanned, and he was somewhere in his twenties. He was wearing what Jackson would consider to be regular clothes. A pair of jeans and a Metallica Band T-shirt.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” the Soldier said, the lines of his face were stern and unmoving.
“We’re looking for someone,” Jackson answered.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” the Soldier responded.
“Hey man, he can see us,” the ghost in the disco outfit said in disbelief.
“Maybe he can help us,” said the spirit of the woman.
“It’s too late for that,” the Solider argued. “Grab her!”
The disco ghost, and the ghost of the man behind them, surged forward and each of them grabbed one of Lilly’s arms. “Hey!” Lilly screamed. “Get of me!”
“Hey!” Jackson yelled. “Get the fuck off of her!” He lunched forward and tried to tackle the disco ghost, but found himself hitting the floor hard, before he could get back on to his feet, the ghosts had dragged Lilly through a solid door, and disappeared from sight.
“Lilly!” Jackson screamed, rushing to the door, only to find it locked. “Think, think,” he said to himself out loud. “What can I do. What can I do. What hurts ghosts… Iron!” he ran back outside and began kicking at the side of the rusted iron gate that was still up right. After knocking the bottom of one of the iron rods, that made up the gate, free, he began to bend and twist it, until he was walking back toward the house with a three-foot-long piece of iron rod in his hands.
Jackson ran through the foyer and up to the door the ghosts had disappeared through. He gave the handle a hard turn, but it wouldn’t budge. Taking a few steps back, he rushed forward and put his shoulder into the door, hoping that he could force it open. A searing pain shot through his shoulder, as he bounced off of the solid wood door, and fell to the floor. He quickly got back to his feet and hit the door several times with the iron bar, but even that assault failed miserably. He had to do something, but what? There was no telling what the other spirits were going to do to Lilly, or where they were even taking her. He ran back into the foyer area, and tried several more doors, which were all locked, before charging up the stairs toward the unknown.
* * *
“Let go of me!” Lilly screamed, as she continued to kick and twist her body, but it was no use, as the ghosts of the Disco Man, and the Regular Guy held on tight, as they followed the Solider through the hallway of the first floor. Every doorway they passed, ghosts, from all eras of time, watched, as the group quickly passed by.
“Help me!” Lilly screamed in desperation. The ghost of an older woman, wearing a black dress, reached out a gray hand, but quickly pulled it back, when the Soldier gave her a disapproving stare.
“No one here’s going to help you,” the Soldier said, rounding one corner and starting off down another hallway.
“Why not?” asked Lilly.
“Because they don’t want to end up like you.”
“Wait!” Lilly exclaimed. “My friend can help you if you let me go. You’re all Purgs like me, right? He’s alive and can help you with your unfinished business. Just let me go, and I’ll talk to him on your behalf.”
“This place is like a roach motel of ghosts, sweet thing,” the Disco ghost said. “Spooks check in, but they don’t check out.”
“Dan!” the woman ghost spoke up. She had been trailing the others, and Lilly had all but forgotten that she was even there. “This is wrong! There has to be another way!”
“Not now Melinda,” the Soldier said, stopping in front of a heavy looking metal door. “You know this has to happen, or else one of us could be next.”
“At least let me talk to her, and tell her what’s going to happen to her,” Melinda pleaded.
“Fine, but make it quick,” Dan ordered, pounding a fist on the door three times. His face contorted in pain, with each strike, giving Lilly the impression that the door was made out of iron, and impassible by those of the spirit world.
“Listen,” Melinda said. “I’ve only got time to say this once. There’s a Demon down there, who feeds off of our essence. He’s trapped within this place, so he set a trap of his own. You felt it, didn’t you. Something drawing you here?”
Lilly nodded her head.
“That was him. Once a ghost enters this place, we can’t leave. We become trapped like him. The girl your looking for, Jessica, she’s down there,” Melinda said, leaning close and lowering her voice to a whispered tone. “I’ll find your friend and tell him where you are. Maybe he can find a way to help you.”
The door suddenly swung open on its own, revealing a darkened, enclosed, stairway leading to the basement of the house. “Times up!” Dan shouted, coming up behind Lilly and giving her a hard shove. The young girl toppled forward and fell down the stairs. She looked up just in time to see the door slam shut.
* * *
Jackson made his way to the top of the stairs, and found a darkened hallway, filled with open doorways. Lifting his phone into the air, he found the eyes of the dead glaring back at him, like animal eyes caught in the headlights of a car. Keep looking straight ahead, he told himself. He wasn’t sure if these spirits had the same intentions as the ones that had taken Lilly, and while he was sure that they couldn’t really hurt him, he didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances.
On the low end of the spectrum, he figured that they would act like the ghosts at the casino, lining up to get his attention, and all wanting his help with their unfinished business. But then the memories of what had happened at Madam Denesha’s flooded into his head, and suddenly he became very worried.
“He’s one of the living,” said the ghost of a young woman, her face and body mangled from a car accident.
“Do you think he can see us?” asked the spirit of man, the back of his head blown out from a self-inflicted gunshot.
“The living can’t see us,” said another man, whose appearance looked normal enough.
“But he was here with that other Purg,” stated the ghost of the woman, who had started following Jackson, after he had passed the doorway where she had been standing.
“One way to find out,” declared the man with the bullet hole in his head. The spirit stepped out of his doorway and came to stand front of Jackson. Jackson wasn’t sure what to do. Would he simply pass right through the ghost, like Lilly does with doors, or would passing through the spirit allow his body to be possessed? At the last possible second, Jackson decided that he couldn’t risk it, and stopped within inches from the dead man’s nose. “Screw this!” he said, jumping backwards, and raising the piece of iron gate up in a defensive position.
“He can see us!” the man said, as all of the ghosts in the hall started to surround Jackson.
“Back off!” Jackson yelled, swinging the rod out in front of him in a wide sweeping arc. The tip of the iron rod skimmed the arm of the man with the bullet hole in his head, causing him to howl in pain, as he scurried back into the darkness of his room. “I mean it! Back off!”
“We need your help,” pleaded the ghost of the mangled woman.
“I just want to find my friend and get the hell out of this crazy ass place. I don’t have time to help you Purgs with your unfinished business.”
“We’re way beyond that,” stated the ghost of the man with the bullet hole,” sticking his head back out into the hallway to see if it was safe or not. “We’d all settle for being able to leave this place too.”
“Then why don’t you?”
“Because we’re trapped here,” answered the woman, whose appearance was starting to make Jackson a little woozy. “Just like your friend is now.”
“Do you know where she is? How can I get to her?”
“She’s in the basement,” came a voice from the darkness behind Jackson. He, and the other ghosts, turned to see the spirit of Melinda materializing before them.
“Because you helped take her!” Jackson shouted, pointing the iron rod at the woman’s head.
“Only because I didn’t have a choice, but maybe you can save her before it’s too late.”
“In the basement lives a Demon named Leonard, and he’s the one responsible for all of this.”
“Leonard? The Demon’s name is Leonard?”
“Rumor has it that he was summoned here over twenty years ago, by the house’s original owner, and has been trapped here himself, ever since. He cast some kind of spell, drawing any spirits within the area here. And once we step inside, the spell acts like a powerful ward, trapping all who enter.”
“Why? What’s he get out trapping all of you here?” Jackson asked.
“He feeds on our essence,” Melinda told him. “He usually keeps three ghosts imprisoned with him at a time. When one gets used up, he tasks me, and other three, with finding a replacement, and in return he leaves us alone.”
“And all you have to do is sell out your own kind,” Jackson said, his words bringing a murmur from the other ghosts, signaling that they shared the same sentiment.
“Don’t judge me,” Melinda hissed. “I don’t want to die like that. None of us does, but better them then me.”
“I hate to break it to you, but you do know that you’re already dead don’t you?”
“Of course I know,” Melinda retorted. “Still doesn’t meant that I want to be slowly eaten by a Demon.”
“Enough of this bullshit!” Jackson huffed, shaking the iron rod at Melinda, which definitely seemed to get her attention, as her eyes followed the piece of metal. “You said that I could save my friend, so spill it.”
“I’ll take you to the basement,” Melinda promised. “But the others won’t be too happy about it.”
“And what do I do when I find her?”
“Beats the hell out of me,” Melinda said with a shrug.
Jackson let out a loud exhausting breath, and lowered the iron rod, which was starting to feel like it weighed a million pounds. Ghosts, ok, he was starting to get use to the whole idea of seeing and talking to the spirit world. The thought of Grim Reapers running around Sault Ste Marie and tasing Bouncers, was a little harder to swallow, but he managed, but Demons? He was no longer in the kiddy pool, he told himself, and he felt like he was about to sink really fast.
Melinda led him back to the first floor, down a different set of stairs, and before he knew it he was standing in front of the basement door. He tried the handle. And found that it was locked up tight, and wouldn’t budge. “Shit!” he cursed, giving the door a hard kick, which sent a wave of pain running through his foot. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the business card that Carol, the Grim Reaper, had given him. Maybe she could come and help him, or at least give him some insight on what do, but he cursed out loud again, when he saw that his cell phone didn’t have any reception.
“You told him?” came the angry voice of Dan, the soldier ghost.
“I had too,” Melinda tried to explain. “This has gone on for far too long. I…I can’t be responsible for sending anyone else down there.”
“You want out, fine you’re out,” Dan said, with a smug look upon his ghostly face. “Grab her!”
The disco man, and the regular looking man, appeared out of nowhere and grabbed Melinda by the arms. “Let go of me!” she screamed.
“Hey! Let her go,” Jackson ordered, taking a swing at the spirit of the disco man, who shrieked in pain, as the iron rod made contact with his face. He released his grip and faded out of sight momentarily. He was only gone for a few seconds, but when he returned, he decided to keep his distance from Jackson. “You too,” he said, pointing the iron rod at the other ghost, who let go of Melinda’s arm and ran through the nearest wall.
Dan made a quick move toward Jackson, but stopped when Jackson spun around iron rod first. “How do I get down there?” Jackson asked. “How do I open the door?”
“You can’t,” Dan said, running through the wall to his left and disappearing from sight.
Jackson started to lower his guard, when Dan appeared from his right side, materializing through the wall, fist first. The ghost landed a solid right hook, knocking Jackson to the ground. The piece of iron gate slipped from his grasp, and clanked hard against the floor.
Dan came to stand over Jackson with an evil look etched upon his gray face. “I bet Leonard will reward us handsomely for him.”
“Dan, you need to stop this!” Melinda begged. “He can help us? He can stop Leonard and free us all!”
The soldier looked into the eyes of the woman, his face full of doubt. “If he can’t beat me, how’s he going to beat a Demon?”
Jackson’s mind was a little foggy, but he knew one thing was certain, the ghost had actually hit him. He didn’t know how he was able to hit him, but his ethereal fist had made contact with his very living jaw. His head cleared a little more and he saw Dan was still distracted, and not paying him any attention. He reached out toward the piece of iron, which laid just out of his grasp. He stretched his arm as far as he could, and felt a wave of relief wash over him, when the touch of the cold iron reached his fingertips. With a quick flick of his finger, he rolled the iron rod toward him, snatched it up and thrust it out toward the solider, who was caught totally off guard.
Dan winced in pain, as he faded from sight. Jackson sprang to his feet, and looked all about him, waiting for the ghost to return.
“Quickly,” Melinda said, pounding her fist upon the metal surface of the door three times. Within seconds the door swung open, and she pushed Jackson toward the stairs. “Before he returns with reinforcements.”
“How am I supposed to stop a Demon?”
“You wanted to know where your friend was, and I’m showing you,” Melinda told him. “I put my ass on the line for you. So, it’s either go down there and try to save us all, or go out the front door and save only save yourself.”