The Netherwalker [The Witch-Walkers #1]

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Chapter 02: Like Old Medieval Caves

A dark corridor lay in front of Penelope Walker.

She began to wonder if this was one of her imaginative hallucinations.

Even as she was curious, she found herself shivering. And it was not from the cold atmosphere in the corridor, either. Finding Ghosts and helping them cross over was one thing. Finding corridors that weren’t supposed to exist? Well, to say that Penelope could hardly believe her eyes would be the understatement of the year. She wondered if she was still sleeping on her bed and all this was only a figment of her imagination. She wished she would wake up very soon…

Of course she did not. No matter how much she pinched herself, she did not wake up.

Oh gods,’ she thought, worried, ’this is definitely not a dream…!!

She stared at the corridor and realised that the clicking sound was more prominent now. She positioned herself in a manner that, on the first of danger, she would bolt out and call for help.

As she stood staring at the corridor, blobs of light appeared here and there. Squinting, she realised that they were in fact some sort of lamps on the walls…

Like old medieval caves,’ she thought.

Penelope realised that the only way to overcome her fear of uncertainty was to challenge it. So, she made preparations to step into the corridor. She took several deep breaths, till she was calm enough to perform the next task in the ritual. When she was ready and lifted one leg to step forward, a shadow fell across the end of the corridor.

She blinked in utter astonishment! The form was rather distorted and unfathomable!

She waited, eyes and ears cocked and feet ready to bolt in the opposite direction. The shadow drew nearer and nearer.

Time seemed to slow down…

The next moment, the shadow grew so big that Penelope felt engulfed in it. Bewildered, she looked here and there, wondering what in the world happened. The sound of a throat clearing caught her attention.

She gulped and looked up. Pictures of all the horror movies that she had ever watched raced through her mind.

A giant black figure loomed in front of her…

Penelope shrieked and bolted out of the corridor.

She ran back to her room, and down the stairs all at top-speed, before she bumped into something soft and fleshy.

She looked up and saw her bedroom-haunt, the ancient Francis Atkinson.

Penelope hugged him around the waist, with no intention of letting him go. She could hear a sigh emerge out of his throat.

“You saw another ghost, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know about that,” she mumbled into his transparent farmer’s t-shirt. “It…was something that was…well…fear-inducing!”

A low amused chuckle rumbled in his throat.

“Well, our kind is ‘fear-inducing’, Penny,” he said in the low voice that she was so used to by now. “You should accustom to this sort of thing by now.”

She looked up at him and saw a broad smile on his face, his facial features crinkling a little on the impact. It cheered up to see someone smiling, with not a care in the world…

The girl looked about her, eyes wide. “Oh, the lights have come back on!”

“Indeed…while you were so engrossed with your little adventure.”

“Oh,” she responded. Then, conscious of her proximity with the ghost, she stepped away, her arms going back to her sides. “Well then…thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, my lady,” he replied with a small but elegant bow. “Whenever you’re in trouble, I’m always here to help you!”

She giggled. “Aye, sir!”

“Well then, if you’re done here, your parents are back and…want you to help them with their shopping bags.”

“Oh, do they?!” she asked him, proceeding further down the stairs.

“Also, they were talking something about how you and your brothers should work harder around the house this vacation…”

“Argh!” he heard Penelope grumbling. Francis drifted towards the sound of her voice and saw her crossing the living-room to the front door. She opened it and stood outside, watching as her parents’ car rolled in through the open front gates.

Mr and Mrs Walker got down the car. Penelope waved at them before running in their direction. Her parents handed heavy shopping bags to her and Penelope took them all in one-by-one. Francis saw her struggling with them and wished he could help her. He could, but he preferred not to. Because, he was invisible to the entire world, except for people like Penelope Walker.

Only Penelope Walker,’ he thought, a thoughtful frown creasing his forehead. ‘Is she the only Mediator around here? I must find out…’

“Hey, Brandon! I’m so glad you’re finally here!”

Brandon Walker was leaning against the dining table with his brother. He cringed at the sound of the very voice he hoped he would never have to hear again.

And Brandon had stacked that night away as the worst nightmare in his life. He did not mind seeing the Loss Ness Monster, if only she did not appear!

“Cassie wants you, Brandon,” his brother, Daniel, teased him. Brandon gave him a dirty look.

“She does not!” he hissed back, rolling his eyes. Cassie Loverheart was the last person he wanted to see that night.

Daniel laughed. “Well, why don’t you at least give her a chance! She’s been behind you all month!”

“You mean, stalking me!” cried Brandon, rather louder than he should have. “Can’t she understand that’s the last thing I want!?”

Daniel shook his head and was about to say something, when the kitchen door opened and a girl entered. She wore a long violet dress with white roses sewn into it and a yellow band tied around her waist like a satin belt. Unruly brown curls hovered over her head and neck, and a glass of red liquid was sitting in her left hand.

As soon as she spotted the Walker boys, she squealed, “Brandon! I can see two of you! What fun I’ll have to-day!”

Brandon grimaced, while Daniel guffawed.

“Laugh all you like, bro,” hissed Brandon at his brother. “Wait till you find your very own stalker!”

Cassie attempted to close the distance between them and launched herself at him. Brandon dodged away.

“Hey, I’m not some kind of plaything, okay!” he yelled at her.

“Plaything… yum!” Cassie hiccupped. “Brandy is my new plaything!”

Brandon gave his brother the stink eye, as Daniel was trying very hard to stifle his laughter.

“Go on, give her new words to experiment with!” he hollered. “Her vocabulary will be the size of an elephant in no time at all!”

By then, Cassie was already on top of Brandon. The poor boy tried his best to dislodge himself from her without actually harming her in the process.

The struggle continued for about five more minutes, when even Daniel decided to join in. The boys couldn’t believe the strength that the girl possessed, despite her drunkenness.

That was when they heard a blood-curdling scream.

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