“Who’s Kevin and Brad?” A muffled feminine voice inquired from the darkness of unconsciousness. It sounded like the voice was coming to him while he was under water. Storm shook his head, which made it feel as if it were spinning like a top and like he was going to vomit. He brought one hand up to press against his temple in hopes that it would cause the spinning sensation to cease. He opened his eyes and saw that everything was blurry, so he began to press more on his temple and blink rapidly. Once his vision was cleared, he looked around to find a face to go with the voice.
“I asked you a question.” The voice spoke again, this time he heard it clearly. It was a soft voice; he could tell that the owner of the voice was scared but trying to sound brave and intimidating. The figure that was speaking to him was in the shadows and he was not able to make out any features, for all he knew he could be talking to a mannequin. But he didn’t know of any mannequins that moved outside of TV and movies. A bright light flashed in his face as his flashlight was turned on, temporarily blinding him. Storm closed his eyes tightly and felt a wave of nausea crash over him.
“They’re my friends. In a car across the street, and I’m sure that they’re looking for me right now.” Storm answered and sat up. He felt another wave of nausea wash over him as he sat up too fast, but he fought back the urge to vomit by taking slow deep breaths.
“Oh really? There’s twenty missed calls and I don’t know how many text messages between the two phones. But they aren’t down there anymore. It appeared that one of them got hurt right after I found you going through my things.” The voice said with a little bit of sorrow when talking about his friends leaving. A lightning bolt flashed through the sky and lit up the windows. Storm was able to see the silhouette of someone standing in front of a window as he held up his hand to block most of the flashlight beam.
“Who are you?” Storm asked as he squinted his eyes trying to make out any features of threats. She could be holding a gun or a knife on him and he’d never know until it was too late.
“No. Who are you and why are you here?” The voice fired back with venom in the question. Storm took a deep breath and let it out before standing and facing the silhouette.
“My name is Storm McPherson. I am here because my drunken idiot friend dared me to come up here and take a selfie.” Storm explained, breathing a sigh of relief when the flashlight was turned off.
“Why?” She asked and he could see that she tilted her head to the side, like a curious dog and heard the confusion in her voice.
“Because he decided that for his twenty-first birthday, he would get drunk and dare me and our other friend to do stupid stunts.” Storm said, shaking his head slowly, doing a mental check of his injury, nothing he hadn’t had before from football, probably a concussion.
“No, why here?” The voice said. He noticed that the silhouette and the sound seemed to have gotten closer to him.
“Because this is the supposed haunted house of our town. There’ve been stories of ghosts since the early twenties. My friend Kevin, not the drunk one, could tell you all about it. He’s a serious local history buff and obsessed with anything supernatural.” Storm explained. The figure still stood there watching him without moving any closer and not speaking.
“Now since I answered your questions, could you answer mine? How long have you been here?” Storm added while trying to remain as calm as he could.
“My name is Phoenix Woods. I’ve been up here for two years.” She said and stepped into the weak candlelight. Storm could see that she was taller than most girls he knew, at least five feet ten inches tall. Her dark auburn hair hadn’t been washed in a while and was starting to clump together.
“Nice to meet you Phoenix. If you don’t mind me asking, what did you hit me with?” Storm asked as he softly rubbed the back of his head and felt a large knot forming. Instead of verbally answering him, a 2x4 fell to the sleeping bag at his feet. Storm watched it and nodded.
“Who are you running from and could I please have my phone back?” Storm asked. The screen of his phone lit up and came tumbling through the air. He tried to catch it, but the screen went dark as he reached out for it. He heard the phone thump onto the sleeping bag, not too far from the 2x4.
“Nice catch. Who says I’m running from someone?” Phoenix asked. Storm could hear the defensive walls slam shut again in her response. Storm slowly bent over to retrieve the phone for two reasons. First, his head hurt like hell and he didn’t want the nausea to come back. Second, he didn’t fully trust someone who bashed him over the head with a 2x4, so he kept an eye on her while bending over. Once he had the phone in his hand, he turned the screen on and saw the time, the message icon and the missed call icon.
“Shit, I’ve been up here for two hours.” Storm said and rushed forward towards the stairs. Phoenix jumped back into the shadows as the light reflected off something metallic in her hand. As he did, he stopped and looked at Phoenix. She watched him closely as the metallic object shifted slightly in her hand.
“Who are you running from?” He asked again quietly as he stopped at the top of the stairs. The concern that she heard in his voice almost overpowered her defenses. He watched as Phoenix slowly stepped into the light from her candle and placed a hand on top of the railing.
“What do you care? It’s no concern of yours.” Phoenix said defensively, hiding the object behind her leg.
“I care. Here, this is my phone number. Call me if you need anything.” Storm told her as he took a pen from his pocket and wrote on a piece of scrap paper from the floor. He held it out to her, but she made no move to take it.
“Anything like what? I don’t need anyone’s charity.” Phoenix snapped back. He could tell by the defensive tone that she had some trust issues, he could understand that he had his own, but there was something about this girl that he couldn’t quite explain.
“Anything like someone to talk to, a hot shower, a hot meal or somewhere to wash your clothes. Or an actual bed to sleep in. No strings attached, nothing expected in return.” Storm explained and left the paper on the railing and ran down the stairs. Phoenix watched him as he disappeared down into the darkness of the abandoned mansion. She slowly walked to the spot he left the paper and picked it up and looked at it and folded the pocketknife closed before going to the window to watch him.
It had stopped raining by the time Storm got out of the mansion and took his phone from his pocket. Going through the text messages that were left for him he dialed Brad’s number, but it went straight to voicemail. He dialed Kevin’s number next and was surprised when Brad answered.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Brad answered the phone in a whispered yell. Both anger and relief came washing through the phone when Brad finally heard back from his friend.
“Sorry, I’ve been unconscious for the last two hours. I just got the messages. What’s going on?” Storm inquired and rubbed the spot on his head again and glanced up to the window, seeing the figure of Phoenix move away.
“Kevin broke his ankle and they are doing surgery on him now. The doc said that it was a clean break and should be a simple fix, but they are gonna put a plate and screws in to make sure that the bone heals fully and that he won’t have problems later on.” Brad explained. Storm could hear him pausing and inhaling deeply and then his voice sounding slightly muffled.
“You’re smoking again.” Storm stated. Brad had started smoking in high school and Storm and Kevin both had been bugging him to quit. He had stopped for about six months until now. Storm heard Brad cuss under his breath and decided it was best not to pester him.
“Anyway, tell me what happened up there.” Brad changed the subject. Storm gave him a quick rundown of events, excluding the part about him talking to Phoenix.
“I’ll fill you in more when Kevin comes home and that way it only has to be explained once. I’m guessing you’re beat man. Why don’t you go home and get some rest and we can go pick Kevin up in the morning?” Storm suggested. Brad agreed and said that he’d tell the nurses and give them Storm’s number as well. Storm then made his way home and found a letter from his mom explaining that she had to take his dad up to Chicago, in the morning, for his treatment and that Storm would be put in charge of their bookstore while gone. After that, Storm went to his room and he fell asleep still wearing the clothes he had on.
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