4. The Void
Dragged and handled like a marionette pulled by its strings, I could tell we were headed for the stairway. The smell worsened and I pulled the neck of my shirt above my mask and nose.
“Slow down, Jonathan. We need to wait for the others.”
“Oh, I figured they were right behind.” Jonathan stopped. “Guys?!” He uttered impatiently and I knew what we’d heard was raw gold in a ghosthunter’s world.
“We’re coming!” I heard Becca’s out-of-breath response not far from where we stood. “We’re here, we’re here!”
“Good. Try and keep up, guys. We can’t miss an opportunity like this. Careful, we’re going up the stairs now.”
The rickety stairs creaked beneath us. With each step we took, I prayed with the thought each move, would be the one that could plunge us to our death.
“If it isn’t the spirits, these stairs are gonna kill us.” I huffed.
“Where’s your sense of adventure, Liz,” he lazily replied and although I’d met him minutes ago, I could tell his words were followed by a teasing simper.
He chuckled and somehow, it gave my trembling body, comfort.
At the top of the stairs, he slowed down and glided forward gracefully making sure the rest of us wouldn’t trip on something protruding from the floor.
“We hear you. If you are here, make yourself heard . . .”
“Hello? We want to help you,” he continued. “Earlier, we overheard you cry. Let us know where you are.”
Chilled we halted, our ears wide open and our eyes circled around. A jarring scrape filled the silence. It reminded me of nails on a chalkboard and my chest heaved.
“This way,” he susurrated.
I clutched Paul’s hand, “Don’t let go.” I mustered bravely. I sensed him shake his head.
We came upon a disturbing room. Small in size with all sorts of technical equipment. A lonely, white chair with filthy straps hanging off it, in the center.
“Are you here?”
A frenzied soundlessness girded us.
“If you are here, let us know.”
The knot at the pit of my stomach tightened as the dreadful quiet gave my mind the space to think, what if? Calmness briefly surrounded me and for a moment, it was peaceful as we heard each other breathe.
The small machine Jonathan held in his hand beeped out of control and a misty chill dropped upon the room. I brought my hand to my face and the rapid breaths I took resonated in my ears. Cold sweat trickled atop my brow and I wiped at it with my bicep.
“It’s here. Let me set up the camera. Hold this.” Jonathan handed me his flashlight and I beamed down at him shuffling through his bag on the floor. “This is great. So great,” he repeated but I didn’t get the feeling it was great at all.
“We’re recording. I hope it doesn’t drain my battery . . .” He took the flashlight from me and walked over to a table. There, he placed a cylindric box with four lights atop it.
“What the fuck is that?” Leon questioned.
“REM-pod. It alerts to the energy field and temperature changes in a room . . .”
A shrill shriek came from Leon. We turned towards him, then, at what his fingers pointed to. A dense, dark shadow of what resembled to be a man a few feet before us.
“Who are you?!” Jonathan shouted.
Tenebrose laughter burst and echoed behind us.
“There’s more than one!” I cried. Tears ran down my cheeks.
“Who are you?!” he shouted again with more force.
Evil. Jonathan’s machine replied back to us in an electronic voice.
“Nononono,” Paul chanted.
The slamming door behind jolted us. We were trapped. They had caught us inside the windowless room. Becca sobbed and the energy surrounding us grew staticky. More intense.
“Don’t give it power, Becca,” Jonathan pleaded. But it seemed to make her cry louder.
A crepitating sound followed, similar to electrical wires crackling. Cumbrous steps followed. One by one. Torturing. Circling. Girdling us. They were heavy and sluggish and they bounced off the dry-rotted wood.
“Fuck!” Leon shouted. “Something scraped me! It burns! My back burns!”
A black fog lifted from the floorboards and an angry demonic scream pierced my ears.
“Jonathan??” My voice shook. He loomed paralyzed beside me. “Jonathan?!”
A great force shoved him in the chest and pushed him against the wall. Shaking his head, he turned his flashlight towards me. “Let’s run!”
Grabbing my hand he pushed through the darkness. The machine in his hand had stopped beeping a while ago. We pushed at the door. It was jammed. I kicked at it and pounded. The tears ran like rivers. I was blinded, but I wouldn’t stop.
“What about your camera?!” I questioned.
“Fuck it!” With great force, Jonathan pounded. His hands reddened and bruised almost bloodied.
Paul kicked at the door. Then, an energy pulled him by the waist and he collapsed on his back smacking his head.
“I’m okay, I’m okay, Leon!” he wailed.
Jonathan and Leon hurried to his side. I kicked the door, my feet hurt and weakened. Becca’s body hoisted. Silent. Frozen.
“Becca! Rebecca, help me, please! Snap out of it!” I implored.
She wouldn’t look at me. Or turn. Or address me, petrified in fear.
“You’re bleeding, Babe. Your head is bleeding!” Leon managed to say between sobs.
The doors were opened by the entity that trapped us in the claustrophobic room. I pulled Becca by the arm and ran out. The others followed. Leon half carried half dragged a limping Paul.
“Which way?!” I yelled. “Which way, Jonathan?!”
“Right! No, left . . . Fuck! Right! Right!”
“Make up your mind!”
“I’m trying to think, damn it, Liz!”
We turned right and ran down a corridor I didn’t recall. “Are you sure it’s this way?!”
More rooms to each side. I had the sense we were headed in the wrong direction. “I don’t think this is the way to the stairs, guys!”
“I don’t feel good, Leon,” Paul blurted out. “I need to throw up.”
“He has a concussion, fuck!” I sobbed.
I heard him retch. Then retch again. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK.
A frightening sound echoed. A resounding thunder that shook the walls. Then, a burn on my arm. Scratch marks. I felt the coolness of a sting, then warm blood trickled.
“It touched me!” I wailed. “It scratched me too, Leon.”
He wailed. We all were. Except for Jonathan. Although I could tell by his hesitation and the shakiness in his voice he was shitting himself.
“Help him up, Leon,” he said. “Liz, grab Becca. Let’s go!”
We followed as fast and close as we could. Then, Becca’s feet stuck. She wouldn’t move. I tugged her arm, but nothing.
“Becca?” I whispered. “Becca?!” The arm that held hers lifted behind me. I looked back and shined the flashlight towards her. “What are you doing? That hurts my ar—”
My eyes grew and almost popped out of my head. Beca was floating close to six inches from the floor. She had something wrapped around her throat.
Laughter. Synister. Chilling. Carried through with a gust of wind. Then a whisper.
I felt its breath at the shell of my ear.
E l i i i i z a b e t h, ha—haha.
Every hair on my body rose and with the shiver that cursed my limbs, I nearly defecated myself.
Jonathan ran to my side, his labored breathing, deafening. He pulled at her body. That choked her more. Gasps and gurgles came from her throat.
J o n a a a a a t h a a a n . . . the same voice said before dropping Becca to the floor.
“Becca?” I inspected the marks on her throat. They were red and at one side a trickle of blood from being held too tightly. I patted her cheeks. “Becca, pleeease!” I implored.
“She looks unconscious. She won’t open her eyes.” His fingers gently lifted her eyelids and he shone the light in her eyes. “I’ll grab her,” he said collecting her body between his arms as if she were a rag doll.
“Leon?” I paused. “Paul?!”
“They probably ran out. We were going the right way. Let’s go.” He urged me with his elbow.
“I knew it, goddammit! I told them not to come!”
“The stairs!” he yelled looking back at me.
“About time! Be careful, Jonathan.”
A few more steps. That was all we needed to reach the first floor and closer to freedom.
Jonathan took a tumble.
“I’m fine—hm!” He winced in pain.
“My ankle, it’s hurt. Bad.”
Heart racing laughter. Then a scream filled with pain. Filled with sorrow. A poor soul wailed. No longer could I tell from which direction.
Becca’s body shook, then violently convulsed. Jonathan placed her on the floor and wiped at the beads of sweat dripping from his forehead with his forearm.
I grabbed my phone and fumbled with the buttons. “No service . . .”
He pulled the cellphone out of his back pocket. “Mine’s got a drained battery.”
Leon’s faint voice came from upstairs.
“Help! Come quickly.”
I raised from the floor and planted a foot on the landing step to head up the stairs. Jonathan gripped my shoulder and shook his head.
“Don’t! I’ll get them.”
“Please, no!” Tears filled my eyes and overflowed. “Let’s pull Becca outside then we’ll both go,” I begged.
For a few seconds, his eyes shifted searching mine. “Fine.”
We turned and flashed the flashlights around.
“Where did she go?!”
I waggled my head in response. My eyes fixed on the spot of light where she’d been laying a few seconds ago. “We have to split.”
He grabbed my wrist and swayed his head. “Let’s not. Everyone’s disappeared.”
I nodded. Not letting go of my wrist we headed up the stairs. Every step was paused, we took our time. The intention was to regain calmness. To breathe.
The wood squeaked under our weight and we walked further into the rabbit hole. An indescribable sound waited for us ahead. An electric static hum. Crackling. An echo . . . then, vibration similar to a broken appliance. Clank, clank, whoo, whoo. The farther we went, the louder it was.
“Don’t let me go,” I implored.
His fingers tightened. They bruised me but I dared not complain comforted to know he securely held on to me. They’d have to rip us apart for his grasp to peel from my skin.
A couple of doors slammed. Then steps and eyes upon us. The air froze and within seconds, I had the sensation of dropping down a void. A sinister obscure hole.
My eyes shut and I couldn’t open them. Deeper we sank. A journey that felt as if it lasted a lifetime but was endured for a few seconds instead.
We tumbled and turned. Upsidedown and right-side-up, somersaulting our way to nowhere. Somewhere unknown. His fingers adhered to my flesh. We fell. When we stopped, I hit my head on something solid. Dry dirt on the ground.
Half heavy lids were difficult to open but I could make Jonathan out. His fingers asked me to go with him. His mouth might have too. It moved but I could make no words. His expression, grim.
Jumbled screams and squeals surrounded me. I held my head. His eyes looked beyond me, then back at my face.
But I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. With difficulty, he scrambled to his feet and ran further away from me.
I attempted to focus but my head pounded. I closed my eyes and opened them, he was a great distant away from me. Jumping a fence, he looked back once more with fear in his eyes, then disappeared before everything went dark.