© 2013 Karli Rush
Lorraine Cavet, my roommate, tosses her blanket over her face and resentfully mumbles, “Go away… I don’t want to hear about your date right now, Keria.” I shake my cell at her and drop to my knees, I’m beyond calm and I have to tell someone about what happened to Richard.
“Lorraine, you have to listen. I can’t get in touch with Rich, I’ve tried calling his cellphone like a hundred times already and I get nothing. No ringtone, no voicemail, like it’s a dead number or something.”
“So, if he wants to get back to you then he’ll call. Now—let me go back to sleep, okay?” Her last words drift off as she tries to go back to sleep but I fervently shake her again.
“No, you don’t understand. He—we went into this house, an old house right off Highway 13, there’s a sign just over the bridge there and—”
Lorraine throws the covers off and bolts upward, her long red hair tangled in every direction. Her dark sea-blue eyes meet mine as she growls out, “Keria, you mean to tell me that Richard took you out on your very first date to an old, crappy house in the middle of nowhere?”
“Yes, no. I mean yes, he did, but you know he’s into the paranormal stuff. He said he wanted to investigate the old house in the woods. He’d never been to it before, he told me and he promised to take me to that Ma and Pa’s Diner just down the road too but—”
“…And you agreed to go?” she asked suspiciously while narrowing her eyes further at me. I toss my cell next to the lamp on the nightstand and press my back against it. My sigh echoes across the room as I cradle my face. She’s not going to believe me, but I have to tell someone. I suck a breath between my teeth and stare back at her.
“Look, I know this may sound crazy, but we went inside. All the rooms were cluttered with the usual junk, chairs, tables, pictures but there was this one room, it was upstairs, it felt different, cold and exposed. I don’t know what it was but it felt like we were being watched. Rich… walked inside the room and the floor fell completely through. I stood there frozen watching it all happen right in front of me and then…” I have to stop, take a breather and regroup my terrified thoughts, it’s all playing over and over in my mind like some disillusioned nightmare. Lorraine scoots closer, dangling her bare feet off the side of the bed, her expression softens a bit.
“So… what happened? Where’s Rich, Keria?”
I plaster my hands over my face again and cry out, “I don’t know!”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I—I ran downstairs, to the exact room below and there was nothing in there. No evidence, no trace the floor above even collapsed. I screamed out for Richard but he was…gone. Just gone…”
“What?! Keria, that’s not funny. You know you have a twisted sense of humor.”
“I’m not joking, Lorraine. I think I should call the cops.” I grab my phone but she places her hand on my arm.
“Okay, if you’re serious, then this guy is pranking you. Tell you what, first thing in the morning you buy me a really good cup of coffee from Starbucks and we’ll go look for him,” she says while she combs her fingers through her hair because her hair still stands ludicrously up like a creepy troll doll.
“Alright, but Jesus, Lorraine, I really don’t think I can get some sleep after this. I’m too freaked out.”
She slumps easily back onto her king-sized pillows and huffs out, “Look, it’s probably a big hoax. Rich could be counting sheep in his own bed right about now, who knows, right? It’s 3:00 a.m. So… just go get some rest so we can debunk his sorry ass later.”
“Right…” I agree standing up and grabbing my things from the nightstand. By the time I close her door, I know she’s asleep. She’s never been a morning person, I’m lucky she was even coherent enough to talk to. I just pray she’ll remember our deal to go look for Rich.
It’s 6:01 a.m. I haven’t slept a wink, I couldn’t with the haunting memories from last night that keeps pounding through my skull. The voice, the icy cold chills still clutch to my insides like it wants me to remember every last detail. Warning me and imprisoning me on the fringes of fear. I bite on my nail while I call Rich’s cell, for the tenth time this morning. But now, something’s different, instead of nothingness I get an operator that says, “The wireless number you have dialed is no longer in service or is out of the coverage area. Please check the number and try dialing again.”
I just about come crawling out of my own skin the first time I heard this. Is he still there, at the house? Or is this some kind of sick joke? Inside, my instincts rattle my gut, it’s deep and menacing. I don’t think this is a prank like Lorraine says. I’ve bitten my fingernails down so badly they’re bleeding, I jump up and snag a kitchen towel to sop up the blood. This bad sinking feeling isn’t going to go away and I have to do something. I pack a couple of bottles of water, write a note on the dry erase board on our refrigerator and head out of the apartment.
I drive over to the guy’s dorm and the entire time I’m thinking about how I met Rich. Guilt squeezes like a vise on my heart. It took him three months to ask me out, I worked in the university book store. He bought some books and didn’t say much the first few times I saw him and then he said out of the blue one day, “Do you like ghost stories?” I was so enthralled by him that I looked forward to the days I would work at the front desk. I would pretend to restock the bookshelves and he would pretend to be looking for the exact book I happened to be shelving. He knew so much about the history of Deadwood. I, on the other hand, had no clue about this town or the stories it possess. I had moved here from Waynesville, the college is what attracted me, not the paranormal. But, from what Rich has told me, he grew up in Deadwood and it carries a lot of dark history. A group of his college buddies decided to chase after some of these unexplainable anomalies. He piqued my interest and every day we would talk, slowly, and gradually we decoded whether we were single and looking or completely career orientated and had no time. He finally asked me out and I probably beamed at him like I was on cloud nine. From then on he called me each day before our date, double checking to make sure I hadn’t chickened out at the last-minute. We even agreed that I could pick him up, so, at any point and time, I could leave. I don’t know what I had expected or even what I had thought. I just knew that, at the time, I was captivated by it all. His stories, his personal experiences and the hope to get to know him more.
I reach behind me to grab a small, grey duffel bag from my backseat. It’s his, he said it was EMF meters and EVF recorders, there’s a couple of flashlights, and other miscellaneous things I wasn’t familiar with. I get out, lock my car door and just as I’m turning around I bump smack dab into Rob. He’s in running clothes and his expression immediately changes when he peeks down into my vacant car.
“Where’s Rich?” My mouth pops dumbly open as I scramble for words. I switch my hand on the duffel bag and glance down at it and pray the whole night was just some ridiculous nightmare.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” finally, I find the words to spill out. He looks at me, stops and studies the bag I’m clutching.
“Isn’t that Rich’s?”
I hand it over to him like it’s some kind of murder weapon, more than ready to get rid of it. He takes it, gives a questioning glimpse at it and then stares back at me.
“So, how’d it go last night? Is he back at your place?”
“Um… no, not exactly. You see, something happened at the house…” I drop my voice to almost a whisper, making him lean in closer. His eyes steady on me, waiting patiently for my next words. “He fell through the floor of a room and disappeared.” I rush the words out before I lose my nerve to say it.
“What?! Oh come on, where is he? Back at your place?” Rob looks around as if he thinks he’s on camera, or something.
“No! I’m serious, I thought of all people that might believe me it would be you, you’re his paranormal tech guy.” He focuses back on me and leans down to my eye level.
“Look, we do paranormal investigations and everything we encounter is based on logic. Detached voices, objects moving, noises, but nobody and I mean nobody from our team has ever ‘disappeared’.” He raises his fingers up emphasizing the last word with a quirk of his eyebrow as we glare at each other. Seconds pass, maybe even a whole minute before either one of us breaks down to say something.
“Did you honestly leave him out there, Keria?”
“I told you, he disappeared! And if I find out that this is some stupid prank, so help me!” I huff at him as I jump in my car, slamming the door. As I’m driving off I peek up at my rearview mirror and I see him flipping me off. Typical. I’m surrounded by nonbelievers. I know what I saw and the sad fact is that I am too scared to simply drive back alone to find out what happened.
8:15 a.m. I’m sitting on my couch holding a double shot espresso in a can from the quick mart down the street. It will have to do, it’s been a little over eight hours since I last saw him and I can’t file a missing person report until 48 hours have passed. I can’t wait that long, something has to be done now. Lorraine towel dries her wet hair as she walks into the living room, she glances at me and then the can in my hands.
“For me?” she teases taking it from me, she takes a sip and plops down on the chair. “So, are we ready?” I nod dangling my car keys in front of her. Before she slips on her other shoe I’m opening the door. I’m more than afraid, but my sanity clings desperately to the unknown. I have to find Richard and I need to know if it was all conjured up in my head or was it actually real.
The drive seems like it takes forever, and considering we got lost not once, but twice. The scenery looks entirely different during the day. The weathered country side roads have no signs or markers but the trees were the one thing I remembered. They anchored downward in such a way that made you feel as if they were trying to hide something. Preserving its hidden secret from the outside world. Branches scrap savagely along the car doors as we drive to the house. Once it comes into view I’m not quite sure what to think, it has an air of innocence to it. A loneliness that creeps over the lifeless brick house.
Empty windows peer back at us like hallowed out eyes and the deadened plants and vines barely cling to the outside.
“So, this is where he brought you?” Lorraine jesters with her hand in pure agitation, I shake my head before she can vent out another complaint. I slip a flashlight in my pocket and get out of the car.
“Come on, grab a light from my glove compartment, Lorraine. It’s really dark in there,” I explain as I walk toward the front of the house. The overgrown weeds and grass brush against my thighs and I can clearly hear her grouchily moaning and complaining about ticks and bugs. The passenger door slams shut and it makes me jump.
“Wait for me, Keria!” I don’t turn around but I do stop and stare up at the callous house. The closer we get the more my heart starts pounding. That same desperate feeling slithers inside me, eating away my courage and grit. It’s completely light outside, one would think nothing to fear but that’s what it wants you to think.
“I thought you said you ran out of the house, Keria?”
“So… why is the door shut?” I shrug my shoulders and push on the old wooden door. I pause briefly before my hand turns the doorknob, dread clutches at me. Lorraine’s own hand grips over mine and turns the handle, giving a forceful shove against the door at the same time. A few unpleasant creaks and squeaks from the door as it swings wide open.
“See, I told you, I really think this whole thing is a prank. I mean who would shut the door after you left?” She spins around the main hall and glances back to me adding, “There’s no one here, no other houses for miles and miles, I bet you could scream your head off and no one would hear you.”
The constricting lump in my throat harbors any words to come out. She’s right, not a soul lives anywhere close by. I watch her swipe a finger across a framed picture hanging on the wall, dust conceals the image. “I wonder how Rich even found out about this place.” She moves to the next filthy photograph and mumbles under her breath, “What the hell?” I carefully pace myself closer to her and squint hard at the photo. It’s black and white, some of the edges look as if they were torn off. But it’s a picture of a room with several doors and in the center is a disfigured gurney.
Our eyes meet, hers only a hint of fear exposes for a second and then she spins around and marches on. “Do—do you still think this is some sort of prank, Lorraine?” I ask, chasing after her.
“Yeah, I do. And we’re going to get to the bottom of this.” Anger coats her tone as she steps up her gait. “Come on, you check downstairs and I’ll check the upstairs, that’s where you said he had fallen through right?”
“Yeah, but be careful, Lorraine, I really don’t think this place is all that secure, it’s still an old house.” I point to the precarious stairs. She sends me a confident nod and easily hops over the holes and cracked wood. I start inspecting around the bottom floor and everything looks closely like it did before. I pass from room to room but once I enter the living room, I feel that uncanniness. Like I’m not alone. I can feel this… gnawing presence behind me, staring malevolently right through me. I build up my nerve and twist around to see… nothing. “Lorraine?!”
“Yeah?!” Her voice answers quickly back from upstairs.
“Nothing, um—I’m just checking, that’s all.”
I walk out of the room I’m in when I hear Lorraine. “Well, Keria, there’s nothing up here.” I grip the stair’s railing and look up to see her bounding down the stairs like she’s ten again. Her bright red hair swishes back and forth in her ponytail just as carefree as her movements. She finishes with two feet on the landing. “So, what now?”
“I don’t know, I thought maybe—” I stop dead in my tracks, mid-sentence because there’s this abnormal, loud sound. A clattering, no, more like a knocking from metal. “Hey, did you hear that?”
“What?” We both listen and it sounds like water pipes screeching together. As if they are groaning to breathe again. And that’s when I feel it, the house coming back alive, the walls flush with deeper rustic colors. And the scent of sunflowers envelop throughout the hallway.
“Come on! It’s coming from down here…” Lorraine states as she grabs my arm, it takes her exactly two good tugs but she unweighs my feet. Both of my feet feel like they weigh the size of massive, unmovable bricks. We race down the hall, swing a hard left and down to another room. Ending our search just at the entrance of a small grey bathroom. The two-by-four room is antique looking with a white pedestal sink. An aged old beveled mirror hangs perfectly over the sink. To the side of that is an old-fashioned claw-foot tub, it is mostly filled with plaster fragments from the ceiling and walls that have fallen over the years. The flooring is nothing but broken tiny bits of square tiling. The crude noise grinds out again and Lorraine reaches across the sink without another thought. She twists the knobs, we’re both leaning over vigilantly waiting for the sound to stop or a gush of water to come splashing out.
Nothing comes out but the grating noise ceases, it sounded just like rusty, unused pipes struggling to break free. Lorraine eases in more. “Hey, give me your light,” she insists holding her palm face up. The bathroom is so cramped that Lorraine and I fill it fully, our elbows bump clumsily together as I fish out my flashlight from my back pocket. As I hand it to her I glance at the mirror and see a murkiness spread across the edge of it. It’s like someone breathing on it. Instinctively, I lean back a bit and watch as it fades away. This frightens me enough that I now have a fierce death-grip on Lorraine’s forearm. “Ouch— Keria. Jesus, what the hell…” she swears and then her dark eyes glance up, following my gaze as the mirror fogs over again. Only this time its inhuman vapor is more spread-out as if someone is standing just on the other side of this mirror scraping some type of symbols. Entirely unreadable to us, I narrow my eyes and try to see what it is, but the haziness diminishes.
The unusual pattern was really tiny,
help me, help me, help me, help me, help me, help me…
We can’t make it out so we both gravitate toward it.
Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.
The mirror is now completely fogged over and the words are becoming more visible, over and over they repeat,
help me, help me, help me, help me,
we stare in pure horror at the words scrawled by some ethereal finger, and then,
A pale hand as white as a sheet hits the mirror hard from the other side. I only see the white hand for a split second but we both jump back away from the mirror and scream. Absolute panic raids our hearts as an icy sensation creeps through us. But the sheer pulse pounding drive over our feet overrules our deafening screams as we tear pass the doorway. I’m not even sure who was out first but you can still hear our screams ringing inside the house.
To be continued…