The Haunting of Briar Manor (The Anomaly Hunters)

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The Secret Tunnel

Inside the passageway was a second switch, which Camellia flipped to conceal their entry. The passageway itself was cylindrical, lined with more doors like the one in the living room. “There’s gotta be a door to every room in the house in here,” Camellia murmured.

“Hey, look at me!” Preston had started to walk on the walls, and then he was on the ceiling, then back to the walls, and then on the floor again, and he went around and around. “I feel like Spider- Man!”

Camellia blocked him out as he ran around in circles, and she observed each door more closely. “They’re all labeled,” she noted. That certainly made exploration a lot easier.

Suddenly, Preston came to a stop, and he lost his footing, sending himself tumbling around in a full circle before he stopped and landed on one side, flat on his face. He stood shakily, trying but failing to find something to stabilize himself on. Stumbling, he tried to find his own balance and eventually did so in front of one of the doors. “Hey,” he said, “this one’s open.”

Camellia shined her light in his direction, illuminating the opening in what was the ceiling to her. “Is that—?”

“It’s the guest room,” Preston said before she could. He stepped inside and she quickly followed after him, a hand on her gun.

Standing on the TV stand, her hand fell in surprise when she saw what waited for them. “Talk about clichés.”

The room was a mess.

All five beds were unmade. Preston’s and Camellia’s belongings were strewn across the floor. And on the wall above the beds, written in thick black lettering, was the word “LEAVE”.

“At least it isn’t in blood?” Preston said.

Camellia dropped to the floor to gather her stuff and make sure nothing had been stolen, and she suggested Preston do the same. Once everything was back in their respective bags, they were fairly certain it was all accounted for.

“That’s good,” Camellia said. “The question now is — why did the door get left open?”

“Maybe the ghost forgot to close it,” Preston suggested.

Camellia bit her lip in thought. “Possible. Or — they heard us in the tunnel and had to make a quick exit.”

“You think they might still be in the stairs, then?”

Camellia shook her head. “One — that door is closed, and if they wouldn’t have time to close the trapdoor, they probably wouldn’t have time to close that one. Two — those hinges are horribly loud; we probably would’ve heard it.”

“So they’d have to still be in the room.”

Preston and Camellia shared a look and then split up to search all the possible hiding spots. Camellia checked the bathroom, and Preston looked under the beds. There weren’t all that many possible places to hide in the guest room.

As she peered behind the shower curtain, she heard a mechanical sound come from the main room not unlike the one the living room passageway made when it opened. She made a quick sweep around the bathroom to see if she had accidentally triggered a switch, then left the room upon finding nothing. Sure enough, the TV was back in place, leaving no trace of a secret passageway. “Did you do that?” Camellia asked Preston.

“I thought you might’ve,” he said. He shined his phone light on the underside of the bed he was looking under to check for a hidden switch, then stood. “Wherever the ghost was, they probably left while we were distracted.”

“Look for a switch,” Camellia said, “quick.”

And they did, starting on opposite sides of the room, but Camellia stopped them before they had even searched a full minute. “It’s probably no use now,” she said. “They’ve had plenty of time to get out of the tunnels. Who knows where they are now? What’s bothering me is where were they hiding?”

“Well,” Preston said, “ghosts can turn invisible. So we probably just didn’t see it.”

“How many times do I have to say that this is not a real ghost?”

“However many times you want to before you’re forced to admit you’re wrong.”

Camellia folded her arms. “Fine. Assume we are dealing with a legitimate, actual ghost. Just like the ones in the movies. Dead person’s soul left behind or whatever, transparent, probably some shade of white. If that’s what we’re dealing with, and if it can turn invisible like traditional ghosts, why does it have to use doors and passageways? Shouldn’t it be able to phase through walls and whatnot?”

Preston shrugged. “Maybe the media got that part wrong about ghosts. Maybe they can turn invisible but they’re still, y’know, solid.”

“You can’t tell me that you think that makes sense.”

He threw his hands up. “Nothing makes sense to me! Not a valid argument. But, anyway, that’s why they’re called anomalies; right? They’re not supposed to make sense!”

Camellia tilted her head. “Everything has to make sense to some degree.”

“What if I said ‘orange movie monkey egg’? Try to make sense of that!”

“It’s a bunch of random words you strung together in a failed attempt to prove me wrong.”

“Hm. It was just that. . . .”

Camellia rolled her eyes. “Anyway, back to the matter at hand ⁠— we should report what happened to somebody. Maybe ask some questions, gather alibis.”

“Yeah!” Preston shouted. “Alibis! Like real detectives!”

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