Chapter 7: Untitled chapter
Hidden in the shadows of the hall, the tears trailed down the young woman’s face. “I knew they had to be, but gone? For years?” Her voice was a whisper. “When did Dad die?” She was staring at the faded wallpaper but not seeing it. “Where did they move to?” She pulled her gray wool coat tighter against the sudden chill in the air. Chloe was unseen by the men. She had heard people enter the house and gone to investigate. Over the years many had entered. Mostly kids on dares; only a few had tried to make the old house a home. None had stayed. She had many times tried to warn all of them, most times just her appearance was enough to send them screaming. This was the first time any had mentioned her. Even the so-called paranormal experts got it wrong. A half-choked laugh sob croaked out as she remembered the “investigation.”
“We’re trying to contact the spirit who dwells in this space,” Linda Blackstone, a famed psychic called. Chloe was sitting in the conservatory lamenting the condition of the once-lush gardens when she heard the call. Chloe had been called many things over the years—the gray ghost, the gray girl, the gray lady, but spirit was new, and if she was honest, a bit insulting. What she didn’t know was she was about to become truly annoyed.
Mike Krewleski panned his camera around the cluttered, poorly lit room. Starting wide, he pushed in, getting his subject in the middle of his viewfinder. Meanwhile, Linda held up her hands and wandered through the mess with her eyes half-closed. Mike felt Linda’s only power was her ability to navigate in areas like this with her eyes closed. Cutting off the laugh that threatened to escape, he remembered the paycheck and returned to the job at hand. Linda stopped, raised her arms, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “She’s here.” Linda turned on the spot with her arms out wide as if trying to touch the spirit. Mike couldn’t help but roll his eyes. How many times had he followed her into one of these houses? She paused, turned slightly, and addressed the corner of the room. “Spirit, will you communicate with us?” Linda asked in her most mysterious voice. Mike turned a laugh into a cough. It would be the same. Linda would convince herself she felt something or heard something and end up scaring herself in the dark. If it didn’t pay so well, he would have told her to drop the farce.
While Mike struggled with trying not to tell Linda she was a fraud, Chloe watched from across the room. She wondered who the woman was talking to as Linda had her back to Chloe and was staring into a corner that was completely empty. Quizzically she watched as Mike moved in close behind Linda.
“Did you feel that?” Linda whispered. Mike was looking around as if he were searching. “Something brushed my arm. I think she is trying to communicate.” Linda’s voice was hushed.
“There!” Mike pointed to an old lamp. It was a hideous relic with fringe along the bottom of the shade. “Did you see that? It moved!” Mike was now pointing his camera at the motionless lamp. He spun on the spot. “I felt someone touch me,” he cried. He smirked behind his lens. He would never win an Academy Award, but it made Linda feel better when he played along.
“Yes, like a hand on my arm. She is trying to tell us she’s here.” Linda was ecstatic. Chloe laughed. It had been years since she had done so. The effect it had was immediate and hilarious. Mike and Linda spun at the sound. Both eyes wide and terrified, Linda clutched painfully onto Mike’s arm. His camera shook. The looks on their faces mixed with the fact that they were still looking in the wrong direction caused Chloe to burst out with laughter again.
Linda forced her voice into its calmest and most ethereal tone. She was addressing a spot several feet to Chloe’s right. Her next words ended Chloe’s mirth. “Am I speaking to Edgar’s young lover who died in this house?”
They couldn’t possibly mean me? Chloe thought.
“Are you the spirit of the young girl who went missing?” Linda asked breathlessly. “The one who walks these halls mourning the loss of her true love?” Linda waited for a moment. “Are you the spirit of the girl who loved Edgar Davis but was rejected by his mother and not allowed to marry?” Linda advanced slightly. “Did you kill yourself in this house?”
Chloe glided back, stunned. She was half in the doorway and the wall. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Was this what her parents had thought? How could her friends think that after what she had told them? Chloe’s mind was a tumbling mess of questions and horror. This wasn’t happening. “No!” she cried, immediately covering her mouth. A tense moment passed. Chloe prayed she had not been heard. Just as she began to relax, a rumbling from above sent dust and plaster showering down.
Linda and Mike stood stock still looking up at the ceiling as if to see through it. Linda screwed up her courage. As she opened her mouth to ask another question. “Shush.” Chloe immediately hushed her. Chloe could feel the twisting fear in her stomach as its presence grew. A sense, a feeling of anger, guilt, hatred, and pain seeped through the walls surrounding then as it drew ever closer. Chloe fought the urge to run. She didn’t like these people and their accusations, but they didn’t deserve what was coming.
Linda gasped while Mike’s camera crashed to the floor. Chloe appeared before them. “It’s coming. You must leave now!” She pointed to the door. Looking past them to the hall, Chloe knew it was almost too late. “Go now!” she called.
“Wait, wait, oh my God, a real ghost,” Linda stammered. “Was it a broken…?” Her question disappeared as did Chloe. She had warned them. She hoped it was enough. No matter what, Chloe knew better than to stick around when it came. She knew where she was safe, and that is where she was going to be. She cursed her cowardice. She just couldn’t be so close to such hatred. She was terrified of him.
Cold tendrils crept down the stairs into the room containing the astonished pair. Linda felt it first, her breath hanging in a cloud in the air. Mike felt it creep up his spine. Foreboding silence enveloped them. The dark corners became black pits as shadows elongated. Linda pressed against Mike, shaking with cold and fear. A black figure slouched into the doorframe. Darkness dripped from it like a liquid. Red coals burned where the eyes should be. A black deeper than any either had witnessed before opened like a mouth below those burning eyes. The howling wind and hate whipped Mike’s and Linda’s hair and clothes, pushing them to the door. With each step the darkness took, a resounding thud of weight forced down with anger and sadness sounded on the old hardwood floor. The sound sped Linda’s and Mike’s flight to the door. Mike’s already broken camera exploded against the wall inches from his head. Linda fought with the door, trying to prize it open against the tornado-force gusts. The hideous lamp with its fringed shade struck her painfully in the back. A low evil voice was carried on the gale. “Get out.” It was barely there but clearly heard. Linda had the door free and was already off the porch before Mike was able to dive through the opening. The door slammed shut, and all was silent again.
Chloe listened to the chaos as she sat safely in the conservatory. She hoped the pair had escaped. The memory faded revealing a surprise to Chloe. Without realizing it she was back in the safety of her conservatory again. She needed to feel safe after listening to Arthur’s tale. Instinct at the feeling of cold had sent her there. Her investigating of the new arrivals caused her a pain deep in her core. She did not want to be around when the evil chased them from the house. The face of the young man swam into her mind’s eye. The smile that formed was quickly shaken as were certain thoughts she had not had in decades. She remembered the brief tale she had heard. Memories of the words crashed over her. The death of her father tore through her worse than she could have imagined.
Had the rumors of her running off been too much? Had they killed him? Did he believe the story about her and Edgar? He had had a weak heart since being wounded in the Great War. Could the stress of it all have been too much? Chloe felt the tears falling. She was lost in questions. What happened to her mother and brother after he died? Why didn’t he come to find her? Why didn’t he help her leave this hell and house? All these questions fought for dominance, causing her head to spin. She let loose a cry of sorrow that echoed through the house. Her legs seemed to give out as she leaned against a pedestal that held a bust of Venus. The weight of her sorrow made her solid enough to send the sculpture crashing to the ground. It wasn’t often she could interact with the world around her, so the surprise of it brought her back to reality. There were people in the house. The sound would definitely draw them to her room. They knew some of her story. A drop of hope in the empty space where her heart once beat. Maybe they could help set her story straight. Maybe they could help her finally leave this place. She looked up at the ceiling. “If they don’t get run off by the creature upstairs.” She sighed.