Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Short Story — The Gray House Ghost

Here is Part 1 of my new Halloween story, The Gray House Ghost...

The Gray House Ghost

By Catherine Mesick

“And so I’m going to go check out the house.”
Rachel looked up from her phone. She hadn’t really been listening to her brother, but he had her attention now.
“You’re going to what?”
“I’m going to check out the house,” Justin repeated. “I’ll set up an investigation there over Halloween. I’ll do my first show about it.”
“I don’t think you should go,” Rachel said.
“Why not?”
Rachel looked at her brother—sixteen years old and he thought he knew everything.
“I think it’s too dangerous,” Rachel said.
“How could it possibly be dangerous?” Justin asked. “I thought you didn’t believe in any of that stuff.”
“I don’t,” Rachel said. “But the place is supposed to be haunted, and every weirdo in town will be over there that night. Besides, the building’s really old, and it may not be structurally sound.”
Justin rubbed his chin ruefully. “You make a good point about the place maybe being mobbed.”
“So you’re not going?”
Justin said nothing and simply looked gloomy.
“I know you want to get your web series started,” Rachel said. “But I don’t think that Halloween at the Gray House is the time or the place to do it.”
Justin didn’t reply to that either, and Rachel was pleased with herself for having talked her little brother out of an unwise enterprise.
So when she came home a week or so later on Halloween night to an empty house, she wasn’t unduly worried.
It was seven o’clock. Rachel had gone to school that day and then to the library—it was a Wednesday. Her parents, she knew, were meeting with friends then going to a Halloween party. Her brother had been in the habit of stopping by a friend’s house lately, but he wasn’t usually out any later than six.
Rachel figured Justin and his friend had simply gotten more caught up in their ghost-hunting talk than usual.
She looked for what her mom had left her in the fridge for dinner, and after microwaving some lasagna, she sat down on the couch with her plate and a big bowl of candy to wait for trick-or-treaters.
Soon a steady stream of children in costumes came by the house, and Rachel frowned when she looked up and realized it was eight o’clock. Justin still wasn’t home. Then another half hour went by, followed by another. By nine thirty, Rachel was genuinely worried. She left the bowl of candy outside for the later trick-or-treaters to empty and then hurried up to her brother’s room.
Any half-hearted hope she might have had that Justin had been hiding in his room the whole time was dashed when she opened the door to find a dark room with the curtains still open.
The familiar outline of Justin’s things stood out starkly in the artificial light from the street—it was clear that the room had been empty for some time.
Rachel went to her brother’s desk and switched on the light. The spare white surface of the desk was empty of paper, and the whiteboard that hung on the wall above it was suspiciously free of any of Justin’s usual notes in blue and green. Rachel quickly got out her phone and dialed Justin’s friend Mike.
“Hey, Rachel.” Mike answered right away. He was a year older than Justin and was actually a senior like Rachel.
“Hey, Mike,” Rachel said.
“What’s up?”
“I was just wondering if Justin’s still with you?”
“Justin?” Mike sounded surprised. “He didn’t come over today. He said he had to go straight home after school—he had some stuff to do.”
“Oh,” Rachel said.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Rachel said. “Everything is good. Just thought I’d check. I know where Justin is now. Thanks.”
Rachel shut off the call abruptly.
She did indeed know where Justin was—her stubborn brother had gone over to the Gray House.
Rachel thought briefly of calling her parents to let them know where she was going, but she quickly nixed the idea. She didn’t know what her parents would think about it, and she didn’t want to get her brother in trouble.
Instead, she grabbed her car keys and ran out the door.
The trip over to the Gray House took about twenty minutes, and Rachel wondered if Justin had walked all that way or if someone had driven him over. The house sat on a lonely stretch of road and was surrounded on both sides by fields. There were no other houses or businesses nearby, and the local buses didn’t operate this far outside of town.
Rachel pulled the car up the long, dusty drive that led to the Gray House and parked in front of it. She was relieved to see that there were no other cars around, and she had to admit to herself that she was wrong about the locals flocking there on Halloween night. They had more common sense than she’d given them credit for.
Rachel got out of the car and stood looking up at the house. It had a wide porch in front, and the building itself was a bit ramshackle. The original house had been built in colonial times, and later generations had added on bits and pieces, the largest of which was an entire wing that had been added during the Civil War—it had nearly doubled the size of the house. The Gray House was named not for any of its owners—but rather for the color of the house itself. The house had actually been built by a once-prominent family named Green, and members of the Green family had lived in it until about the 1880s. Rachel remembered vaguely that the family had moved out suddenly without ever selling the property after some sort of tragedy. The house had been left to fall into ruin and disrepair, and its sad, abandoned appearance combined with old rumors about the Green family had conspired to create a belief amongst the locals that the Gray House was haunted.
But haunted or not, the house was undoubtedly old, and Rachel eyed the porch with some wariness.
A light suddenly turned on in the attic, and Rachel sighed. That was probably her brother adjusting his ghost-hunting equipment. She switched on the flashlight she’d taken from the glove compartment and stepped up to the porch.
The span of floorboards between the steps and the door suddenly looked very wide and treacherous.
Rachel started forward gingerly, and she managed to make it all the way to the door without incident. The floorboards didn’t break, and they didn’t even creak.
Rachel reached out for the old-fashioned handle, and she wasn’t surprised when it turned easily, and the door swung open. She knew Justin had gotten inside, and since the house was abandoned, there was really no reason to keep it locked.
Rachel shone her light on the big, empty front room, and she walked slowly and carefully through several more rooms. Though the house was completely devoid of furniture, it wasn’t very dusty, and there weren’t even any cobwebs. The floors and walls were intact, and there were even a few decent-looking chandeliers hanging from the ceiling in a few rooms. It almost looked as if someone had been taking care of the place.
“Maybe they knew how to build them back then,” Rachel whispered to herself.
She returned to the front room, which had a massive staircase, and after examining it with her flashlight, she decided it looked safe enough to use.
She began to climb it.
Rachel had briefly considered calling out her brother’s name, but she knew she was too far below the attic for him to be able to hear her, and something about the empty, well-preserved house seemed to compel her to silence.
She had just reached the first landing and was about to start on the next set of stairs when she thought she heard the front door open and close below her. Once again, she very nearly called out her brother’s name, but she soon thought better of it—it was probably the locals finally showing up for some Halloween troublemaking.
Rachel turned off the flashlight. Maybe they’d just dare each other to walk around a little and then go.
She continued on her way up the stairs, stepping carefully and quietly in the dark.
But she soon heard heavy footsteps on the staircase below her, and a moment later she saw a flashlight spotting the way ahead.
Rachel flattened herself against the wall and hoped that the intruder wouldn’t see her. But the heavy footsteps came even closer, and soon the flashlight shone full on Rachel’s face.

*You can read Part 2 here.*


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