Copyright © 2014 Karli Rush
*This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.*
I skim a diffident look around the room and ultimately meet Natasha’s inquisitive dark eyes. “You don’t like being here, do you?” she asks with little tact and chunks the book back on the shelf.
“You really want me to answer that?” I retort as I shine my flashlight suspiciously behind us. I get this ill sense of someone watching us. An ominous feeling creeps all around me—like waiting for an icy hand to grab a hold of my arm or something in the room to move about. But nothing happens. It’s quiet, just our restless breathing keeping us company. Most likely mine than hers.
“So…how did he get you out here?” she idly asks as she reaches for another grimy book.
“Who?” I reply, not entirely focusing on the conversation, because every tiny hair on the back of my neck rises.
“Rich,” she draws out like I’ve become suddenly stricken with stupidity.
I pass the light right over her face and give an off-handed expression. “I don’t know for sure. He just made all this—” I swirl my finger up in the air and say, “Sound so exciting, you know?”
“Yeah, I do know. Rich always had this charismatic and fascinating way of—”
“Wait. Did you two date?” I butt in zealously. My attention immediately switches gears. Compulsively I’m finding myself truly wanting to know who he had dated and if he took them out to old abandon houses also. I comb my fingers through my hair and peer back at her with worry.
She holds a hand up still gripping the EMF and adamantly explains, “Oh no, I know what you’re thinking and that’s not it. I’m a political science major and we had a class together. I love doing investigations, and so, he invited me to come out and meet the team. Rob and I are actually dating. By the way…how did you get your hands on that suitcase?”
“That’s kind of a long story, I actually went by the psychic Rob had told Lorraine and I about,” I start to admit when a hardback book drops from one of the shelves. And then one more, like someone is standing there knocking them off slowly one by one.
Natasha’s device lights up to a 3.5. She directly glances over to me and whispers, “We’re not alone.”
I suck in a hearty breath and reluctantly take the handheld recorder she offers. The temperature within the room doesn’t feel cold or indifferent. But I know we shouldn’t be here, call it a sixth sense or intuitive behavior. Goose bumps raid my body from the tip of my scalp to the very edge of my toes. My eyes grow wider darting across the bookshelves and then back to Natasha.
“Can you tell us who you are?” she calls out with an air of confidence and scans her device around the room. Books cease their plunge to the floor and a racket of noise comes from behind us. I spin on a dime, shining my flashlight at whatever it is, and in the misty infra-red light I see a silhouette.
“Can you give us your name?” Natasha continues to inquire.
I tug on her sleeve roughly and aim the recorder at the doorway. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman, but I can tell it’s an apparition of some sort. All the color drains from my face as I watch it move closer to us. I blink and then it’s gone.
“Natasha, d-did you just see that?”
“No, what was it?”
“It looked like a person standing right over there.” I point at the entranceway and add, “But I can’t tell you if it was male or female, it was more like a shadow figure.”
“C’mon, let’s go find out what that noise was,” she states and retreats to the hall like a bat out of hell. Stationed in the farthest corner is one of their motion sensors, but the tripod mount is crumpled down, laying over on its side. I stand on guard as she adjusts the mount and props it efficiently back up. Out of the crook of my eye, I see the silhouette again and an icy chill unfurls all around me.
“Keria, where was the apparition?”
I stare straight ahead at the blank wall in front of me, I hear Natasha loud and clear, but I’m too terror-stricken to move. It’s still standing just a few feet away from us at the base of the stairs.
“Keria? What is it? What’s wrong?” she demands as she finally stands up and glares at me.
I clear my throat, forcing some audible sound to come out and mutter, “It’s next to the stairs.” The motion detector lights flicker madly to the left of us, and then to the right as if it’s spotting numerous motions at once. The iciness infuses all through the hallway and I can see each cold, shaky huff of my breath. The crackle from her two-way radio meshes harshly with the unnatural atmosphere, making us jump. She sends me a quick supportive smile and holds it so that we both can hear from it.
“Okay team, let’s rotate. You guys take the upstairs and we’ll take the downstairs,” Rob dictates authoritatively over the radio.
“Copy that,” Natasha replies rather calmly and bends down to recheck the motion sensor stand.
“What was that?” I spout off, wondering why in the world she doesn’t seem half as affected as I am.
“It was probably a glitch with the sensor—”
I impolitely interrupt her logical ‘debunking’ notion and boldly ask, “Did you not see it or even feel the air change?”
She starts to part her mouth open just as the guys ramble down the old rickety stairs. “I think we’re getting some great confirmation of paranormal activity here, guys,” Rob reveals.
Natasha meets him at the landing, whispers something quietly in his ear and glances back at me. Was that a look of sympathy for my own sanity or is she hiding her own fears? I look away briefly trying to see if anything lurks nearby. I feel more at ease with everyone close around, everything seems more placid. As the aftershocks of assiduous panic slip away I periodically, glance at them and notice she’s wiping a tear from her eye. Something freaked her the hell out, but for whatever reason she wouldn’t admit it to me.
“So, what else did you guys get?” Justin asks as he switches out the dead batteries in his device.
“What do you mean?” I retort back.
“Well, Natasha said she heard someone say, “get out” in a deep, demonic voice, and books were falling off the shelves in there,” he states and points toward the living room area.
I nod, confirming that I hear what he’s saying. I let him slip the recorder out of my hand and watch as he holds it up to his ear. I steal a sigh and say, “I didn’t hear any voices, but I did see something…” I gesture next to the bottom step and add, “Standing right here.”
“What did it look like?” he questions curiously and I explain to him the exact same thing I had told Natasha. He bobs his head with interest and then hands back the recorder to me. “I think you’re good to go. Did you see any other hot spots?”
I’m assuming he means abnormal activity, so, I let him know how we found the motion sensor adding that he might want to double-check it for malfunctions or whatever. I’m feeling more like this is a debriefing more than anything, but he juts his chin out encouragingly and says, “Be careful going up the stairs. Rob and I are going to run a full EVP session down here, and if you need anything just give us a shout, okay?”
I nod affirming his words and with tentative steps, I follow Natasha back up the dreaded rotten staircase. My glimmer of light casts faintly outward in front of us as we creep around the hole in the steps. Out of curiosity, I flash my beam to the top of the stairs. That never-ending panicky sensation sinks through me like we’re being observed. Watched by the eclipsed and nameless. Igniting the fear in me all over again, we’re alone, in the dark with just two small flashlights to guide our way. And as my light skims across the top floor, I see it.
I see her lengthy brown hair, her pale white arms, and as I start to meet her face she turns and walks away. The need to verify what I just saw is exactly like a riptide, a surreal force that can’t be ignored. My hand grasps Natasha’s elbow as I practically lead the way. “Come on,” I urge her. We tread up the last creaky step and wait.
Natasha extends her left hand out, griping the EMF tightly while she announces to the awaiting darkness, “We’re not here to hurt you…” Both of our heads snap to our left as vague footsteps stray down the blackened corridor. A second later the motion detector shrills out. The EMF illumes with diligent life and I hit the record button.
“I can’t believe it…you forgot to have it on?” she admonishes and shakes her head.
“I have it on now,” I counter back and vigilantly shrug my shoulder. “Which way?”
She signals a finger to the last room down the hall and my heart slams to a stop. My palms become clammy and my footfalls lessen, as if I tiptoe there it will make the room fade farther away. The pungent scent secretes heavily from that room, blood and blossoms. A mixture that instantly has me thinking of the sunflower field. As we near the doorway a shadowy image darts from the hall and into the room. A wave of uneasiness crashes all over me and I halt my next step. My legs feel like paper and my heart beats faster until I can hear it drumming inside my ears. Her Maglite dances all along the outer seasoned doorframe, examining it.
“I—I can’t go in there…” I whisper low and swallow nervously.
“This is it? Isn’t it? This is the room Rich fell through, am I right?” she quizzes without any hesitation. She sends an absorbed but cautious look over her thin shoulder and says, “Seems like the motion detectors have died down now.”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I’m worried about,” I reply dryly, gesturing toward the room in front of us. I feel like I’m being lured to this particular area, but why? She grips the frame and peeks inside. I aim my shaky light through the dark doorway and see the spotless bare walls, and empty flawless floor. Natasha tips her small dainty nose up curiously in the air and takes a deep whiff.
“What’s that smell?”
I know what the foul scent is. Dr. Reid may have disemboweled this room but the sordid odor will never leave, it’s the stench of death. Forever part of this house and condemned to this last room. I latch onto my bottom lip and debate about how much detail I should tell her.
“I think this is the room that Claude took the victims to and—”
“And the doctor would ‘treat’ them,” she states with a look of pure disgust on her shadowed face. She quietly eases one foot pass the door and illuminates the blanched, desolate room. The second she takes another step inside an unfamiliar tone chimes out. It sounds muffled but loud enough that we can hear its sporadic ring. Natasha eyes me and I shake my head confounded. She slides her cell phone from her back pocket and scowls at it.
“It’s not me, check yours,” she quips and leans against the doorjamb.
I try to protest by saying, “It’s not mine. I have it turned off.” I glance down at mine, a web of long jagged cracks spread across my screen and I’m instantly reminded of how it happened. A bone-chilling breeze wafts by and my breath suddenly becomes visible. The foreign ringtone mourns out again and this time it sounds like it came from behind us.
Natasha whips out her two-way radio and asks, “Hey, did one of you guys leave your cell phone up here?” The nervous shuffle of her feet, as she paces back and forth, is the only sound I hear. I don’t dare a head-on-look into the last room, but I see something walk by the doorway just out of my peripheral vision.
“C’mon, I think it came from down here,” she prompts nudging my stiff unmoved arm. The crackle of static breaks the eerie vibe and I hear Rob’s voice echo from the distant radio.
“No. Natasha, is everything going okay up there?”
Rob’s deep tenor stretches across the overshadowing dark hall, and I can’t find the energy to move my feet. Natasha’s figure swiftly blends into the vagueness as I stand solely on my own. A grieving creak here, and a lonely rasp there, pulls my unenthusiastic attention to the room. The mysterious ringtone cries out one more time, and I feel the icy cold touch land on my shoulder. The abnormal pressure has my heart throbbing inside my throat, my stomach churning with horror, and then I hear my name whisper in my ear. “Keria…”
Inch by inch, I slowly turn toward the doorway and there standing is Jamie Lynn. Her clothes are badly tattered and gorily stained, lengthy brown hair tousled over her shoulders and when I grudgingly drag my eyes upward I see no face. A blur of nothingness. I capture a petrified breath and pray for what I’m about to do, and accompany her inside the room. I walk in a precise heel toe motion, shining my every step with the flashlight. The air in here jogs my memory of the asylum, sterile, inhuman, and infected with torment.
I spin around to see if her ghostly form still lingers in here. And as I do a heaviness bears over me and detached voices scream and shriek from every corner of the putrid room. Cries of pain, agony, and despair wretch out like a whip lashing me. I cover my ears as tightly as I can, crouching down and squeeze my eyes shut. The coldness envelops everything and then the subtle ringtone chimes through the madness. Silencing it all.
I carefully peek one eye open and then another to find laying in the middle of the floor is a cell phone. Nothing else by it, not a scrap of paper or cloth, nothing. It rings again and again, until finally I reach down and pick it up. The screen lights up with one word across it. Keria. As I’m bending down, I swear this phone looks like Rich’s iPhone. My name flashes bizarrely across the brightly lit screen, like I’m calling him.
The walls expand outward and then back as if they were alive. I instinctively stand up griping the cell phone for dear life. Every board beneath my feet bows and bends and then splits angrily apart. I hear the fury of the flooring breaking away before I actually feel the sensation of falling to the lower floor. Through the havoc I let out a bloodcurdling scream. The strange ethereal image of Jamie Lynn stands motionless just above, like she’s floating over the hole I’m tumbling through. Watching, waiting for my end to come.
To be continued…