That was a question I have been asking myself for the last several days, actually. Who was I? The girl I thought I was is clearly not who I’ve seen lately. I was the girl who didn’t believe in this stuff, but how can I deny what I’ve seen? There were far too many coincidences to make me question this any further. Perhaps everything Brad had told me and showed me were actually true. However, it was still a hard pill to swallow.
“I- I’m not su…” I stuttered out before I was cut off by screams.
All the candles lighting the room blew out in the exact same moment, shrouding all of us into the darkness of the basement. Screams and panicked sighs erupted around me and because I couldn’t see anyone, I began to panic myself.
“Calm down, everyone!” Bayou Briar shouted over their cries, but nobody was listening.
I stayed put in my chair, clutching the notebook to my chest and tried to let my eyes adjust but with no outside light seeping in through non-existent windows, I couldn’t see a thing. My heart was thundering in my chest and I kept telling myself over and over in my head to just relax.
It’s obvious a draft came in and blew out the candles. I’m assuming the air conditioner kicked on and blew them out, Bayou Briar forgetting to shut it off.
And it was then that I felt a warm breeze brush against the back of my neck, causing the hairs to stand up on end. What made it strange was the fact that it wasn’t the cool air an air conditioner would provide, but instead, it felt like someone’s warm breath.
I swung my hands behind me, hoping to hit whoever was behind me and clearly trying to scare me. But my hands didn’t collide with anyone. Nothing was there.
“Emersyn,” a breathy voice echoed behind me and now I was joining in with the panicked screams around me.
I jumped out of my chair so quickly that I’m surprised it didn’t knock to the concrete floor with a bang.
“Who is that?” I asked into the darkness, not at all sure where I was currently looking. The darkness is something that has always terrified me. My fear of it went back to when I was a little girl and I was accidentally locked in a coat closet for hours. Ever since then, I don’t do darkness or tight spaces.
“It’s me. Jo.” She clutched onto my arm and I held onto her as well.
“Did you hear my name being whispered out?” I asked Jo, hoping I wasn’t going crazy and she had heard it too.
“I can’t hear anything over this screaming.” Her nails were digging into my forearm, causing a sharp pain to greet me there, so I pried my arm away from her. She was just a bit too close for my comfort.
When I was free from her grip and standing alone again, I felt my back press up against a solid object. I have no idea what I was pressed against, but it was comforting to me for some reason. The basement was still so dark that I was becoming dizzy from the lack of light. My eyes felt like they were two sizes larger than normal, trying to see something. Anything.
As I continued to stand here, I tried to gain some composure. Even though I couldn’t see a thing, I tried to play out in my mind where I was sitting in the room compared to where the exit was. If I was standing by Jo only moments ago and backed away from her, perhaps the exit is right… I reached out to my left and felt the thick material of the drapes, sighing in relief.
“Emersyn,” the breathy voice echoed next to me again and I froze.
“Who the hell is that?!” I nearly shouted, hoping to be heard over the panicked screams.
Instead of an answer, a loud guttural growl reverberated off the walls, shaking me to my core. The people in the basement screamed louder and all hell broke loose. Sounds of shattering glass and chairs knocking to the concrete floor echoed in the darkness and fear gripped my chest like a vice.
I grabbed the drape, guiding myself to the exit as I held my other hand out in front of me. My shin knocked against something solid, a pain biting me, but I ignored it. I have to get the hell out of here, there’s no time to worry about the pain right now.
The solid object has to be the stairs. Please, be the stairs. I lifted my foot as if to step up, testing the platform with my toes and breathing out in relief when I actually found the stairs.
I’d never run upstairs so quickly in my life. Not even when I was a kid and something scary happened to me in our basement and I ran up our stairs as if the devil himself was chasing me. This time, however, actually felt evil, and climbing the spiral staircase in complete darkness wasn’t going to stop me from getting the hell out of here.
Once I reached the shop, light from the street lights poured into the room. My eyes burned and adjusted quickly to the light as I ran towards the front door. Screams and the sounds of crashing furniture were still heard from the basement, but that wasn’t my concern right now. I was finally out of the darkness and I wasn’t looking back.
With shaking hands, I unlocked the front door and ran from The Mystic as quickly as my feet would take me.
The street in front of the shop and the alley that led me here was deserted, but that wasn’t what caught my attention. Bourbon Street was like a ghost town. It was early in the evening and there was no way in hell the popular tourist attraction was dead. The neon bar lights were shut off and no jazz music could be heard drifting through the cobblestone street.
“What the hell?” I breathed out, turning my head this way and that.
It was as if every shop on the street had shut up business and had been shut up for years. It was then that I noticed the weeds growing up through some of the cobblestones as if nobody had been here in years.
I didn’t understand it. It felt as if I was thrown onto the set of a horror movie that turned New Orleans into an apocalyptic nightmare. But there were no cast members milling about and definitely no camera crews.
This can’t be happening.
I’m dreaming. Yeah, that’s it. I’m in a horrible, realistic dream, and I’ll wake up anytime now. I reached up and pinched my arm, feeling the pain from it told me I was definitely awake.
My head turned towards the direction of my house and I took off running. I have no idea what’s happening to me right now, but I need to get to the safety of my house. Something kept telling me to run faster and don’t look behind me.
Once my feet hit the front steps to my house, the shrill of my cell phone ringing nearly caused me to fall flat on my rear end.
Without hesitation, I pulled my phone out and saw Brad’s face lit up on the screen. My heart squeezed and I was so glad that it was him calling me. I really needed my best friend right now.
“Brad?!” I answered.
“Emmy? What’s wrong?”
Obviously he could hear the fear in my voice, even I could hear it.
“I’ve-” I paused, looking behind me before I continued running to my front door. “I’ve had a strange night.” Once I was in the safety of my house, I locked it up tight and pulled the curtain closed over the window.
“Tell me what happened. Are you okay? You sound completely out of breath.”
I was. My chest was heaving from all the running I had just done. It has been years since I’ve run this much.
“I went to…” I stopped myself. Could I tell Brad about The Mystic? He obviously believed in this stuff, but would he believe what happened to me? I couldn’t grasp what had just happened, let alone try to explain it to him. It was the same as all the other strange things happening to me.
I couldn’t tell him.
Not yet, anyway.
“I just creeped myself out, Brad. I’m okay,” I laughed. “What’s up, buddy?” I busied myself in the house, closing all the curtains as I went through the house, ending up in my bedroom as I slumped down on the end of the bed. My eyes stared down at my shaking hand in my lap as I took a few steadying, deep breaths.
“I was just calling to tell you that the dance was canceled so I won’t be needing that mask. I figured you could return it.” He sounded irritated and I knew my best friend was upset.
“Why did they cancel it?” I asked, not really caring. That dance had always been lame and all the kids went to it just to spike the punch and have an excuse to grind up against their boyfriend or girlfriend. I don’t know why they needed a dance to do that, though. They did that whenever and wherever they wanted anyways.
“You haven’t heard? There was a bomb threat to the school. They’ve shut down the school for the rest of the week until they figure everything out.”
A bomb threat?! Good lord! Why would anyone want to blow up our school?
“Jesus, Brad, that’s terrifying. Are you alright?”
He laughed. “Emmy, I’m talking to you now, aren’t I?”
“Okay, smart ass. What other news do you have for me?” I wanted to keep him talking. I didn’t want to think about the events that happened to me tonight and talking to my best friend was helping me relax just a bit.
Brad started talking about the latest drama at the school but I honestly tuned him out. Something had caught my attention and the hairs on the back of my neck began lifting once again.
I didn’t know how to explain it but I felt like I wasn’t alone; it felt as if someone were watching my every move.
A sound of something dropping to the floor in my bathroom caught me off guard as I held my breath and tried to listen. Was someone in there? I knew there wasn’t, though, because when I went to close the bathroom window curtain, it was vacant.
“Brad? I’m going to call you back.” I hung up before he could protest, tossing my phone onto the bed.
With shaking legs, I stood up and slowly made my way to the bathroom. But, before I made it that far, I grabbed the closest object nearest me for a weapon: a picture frame. Even I rolled my eyes at the choice of weapon, but that’s all I had.
I continued making my way to the bathroom, just a few short steps from my bedroom door. There were no longer any sounds but my instinct told me I wasn’t alone.
Did I call out? No, that would only give away my position.
The bathroom door was halfway shut and I knew without a doubt that I hadn’t done that.
My heart was thundering in my chest as I gripped the picture frame tightly in my fingers, waiting to strike whoever was in my bathroom.
Once I was standing at the bathroom door, I held the frame up high and took a few deep breaths before I kicked the door open and screamed a war cry as I entered.
But nobody was there.
It was exactly how I left it.
The sound of something falling to the floor must have been in my imagination because there wasn’t a thing to be found on the floor.
I let out a relieved breath as I dropped my arms, the picture frame dangling at my side. My eyes scanned the area for any sign of disturbance and that’s when I saw it. Every hair on my body stood up and a tingle ran down my spine.
The bathtub was completely full to the rim and the overflow drain wasn’t bubbling or draining the water and there wasn’t a single ripple in the water, as if it had been filled hours ago.
Had it been filled like this when I came in here earlier? I honestly couldn’t remember. Even if it had been, who would have filled it? I haven’t taken a bath here yet.
Why wasn’t the overflow drain working, though?
My eyes went to the main tub drain, seeing that it was one of those old pull-chain type plugs. There was no way in hell I was reaching my hand in that tub to pull it out. I’ve seen enough horror movies to warn me against doing that. I didn’t feel like being pulled into the tub by an unseen force and drowned to death. Nope, no thanks.
The shrill of my cell phone ringing again made me scream and jump so high that I dropped the picture frame in my hand, and it shattered on the ground.
I ran from the bathroom, ignoring the mess and weird tub, and answered it.
“What the hell, Emmy? You can’t just hang up on me like that. I’ve called you like twenty times. What the hell is going on?”
What? I pulled my phone away from my face and did indeed see how many times Brad had tried to call me. But, why hadn’t I heard a single one of them?
My thoughts drifted back to the bathroom and how unexplainable that was.
“Brad, this house is weird. I think you’ll love it.” That’s all I could say for now as I slowly walked back towards the bathroom. I honestly just wanted to shut the door and forget that it ever happened, but I knew I was too curious to do that.
“You’ve got ghosts, Emmy?” He asked, excitedly. “Oh, I can’t wait to move in!”
“Don’t get too excited just yet,” I joked. My hand pushed the door open all the way, clunking against the back wall, as I stepped back into the small room. “Holy shit,” I breathed out.
My eyes were playing tricks on me. That’s the only explanation for this.
“What?!” Brad screamed into the phone. “Tell me!!”
I stared down into the bathtub and nearly passed out. The water was gone, completely drained and when I reached down to run my hand over the tub from the drain up, I found that it was bone dry.
A crazed laugh left my lips as I stepped back and fell onto the toilet.
Memories of being at The Mystic and around all of those herbs came into my thoughts. The strange smelling sage from the basement stood out the most and I shook my head. Clearly, Bayou Briar put something in them because I am definitely hallucinating right now. That’s the only possible explanation for all of this. The candles going out and the strange voice whispering my name down to the growl were all hallucinations. Bourbon Street being deserted and my fear of being followed: a hallucination. And the full bathtub that wasn’t actually filled at all: a hallucination.
“I think I need to go to sleep, Brad. I’m losing my damn mind. I swear I came in here to find my bathtub filled with water but it actually isn’t.” I laughed, shaking my head as I turned to look in the mirror, only to gasp.
Around my neck was the stone necklace I had gotten during the psychometry readings in the basement. But, how did this one get around my neck? I thought I dropped it when I freaked out. How is it here?!
I reached up and touched the stone around my neck, only to feel a strange shock in my fingertips. I hissed through my teeth as I pulled my hand away.
“Emmy, do you need me to come down for a few days?” Brad broke through my thoughts.
“I’m okay, Brad- really.” I slowly backed away from the mirror and my reflection when I stepped on glass, the sound of crunching startling me.
“Shit,” Brad cursed into the phone, “my dad is calling for me. Call me later, okay? You seriously sound freaked out. I can come down if you want me to.”
I gripped the phone tightly and stared down at the picture frame shattered on the floor, a familiar envelope sticking out from behind the picture.
“I’m cool, Brad. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
We hung up from each other before I bent down and shoved the photo out of the way, pulling the envelope from the pile of glass.
My name was written in perfect cursive over the front of the envelope, much like the other ones, as my fingers tore open the old parchment paper.
14,000 feet above sea level, where no man travels, will you find the darkness that dwells deep into the earth.
Keep your eyes open as many will be watching you. There and only there, will you find Atticus.
You only have a fortnight before the full moon arrives and the veil is lifted. Once it’s lifted, stay in the shadows. Stay hidden.
Your life depends on it.
I read the letter over and over, noting the name Atticus mentioned once more and no signature of any kind. Who the hell is sending me these strange letters? And, how did it get in the back of this picture frame?
Reaching down, I grabbed the frame and picture, noting that it was a photo of me and Brad at the Autumn Equinox Fair, arms around each other, and smiling from ear to ear. What really made this strange was the fact that I had literally just put this picture in this frame a few days ago. There was no letter in the frame; I’m positive about that.
However, I still have no idea who this Atticus person is or why I have to find him so badly. My thoughts drifted back to the mysterious letter I received on my birthday. A poem of sorts, saying things I didn’t understand, but the letter was signed by “A.” I can only assume A stands for Atticus. Right?
I think I just need some serious sleep. It’s been a rough couple of days and even though I should be more freaked out than I am, especially after that tree lifted me up and shoved its branch down my throat, I’m not freaked out at all. To be fair, I’m still not sure if I believe the whole tree incident even happened. Sure, I still have a leaf tattoo burned into my wrist, but that doesn’t prove a tree lifted me into the air.
After leaving the bathroom, I headed back towards my bedroom where I could face plant into bed and sleep in as long as I want to in the morning.
But, I didn’t make it that far when I was knocked off my feet, slamming into the wall before I collapsed down hard onto my knees. A huge eruption, like a bomb, went off somewhere outside. The glass windows shook and rattled. My entire body shook from the rumbling floorboards, the sound so loud I felt like my eardrums were going to burst. I brought my hands up to guard them when another explosion erupted. My head was pounding and I was so disoriented that I didn’t know which direction this one came from or how close it was. The entire house felt like it was going to shake right off the foundation and there was nothing for me to hold onto.
With shaking legs, I tried to stand up, only to feel another round of vibrations and earth-shattering movements erupt beneath my feet. My hands were held out, trying to keep me steady between the walls but it felt like the floor was shifting beneath my feet, nothing sturdy to hold me up.
I cursed beneath my breath as I tried to keep myself steady. And then another eruption exploded, completely throwing me off balance as I fell hard. My head hit something with a blunt force as stars began dancing in my vision, slowly pulling me into the darkness.