Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Gray House Ghost, Part 2 (New Short Story)

Here is Part 2 of The Gray House Ghost. If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you can find it here.

The Gray House Ghost

By Catherine Mesick

“Rachel?” said a voice in a whisper.
Rachel shielded her eyes against the glare. “Who wants to know?”
The flashlight moved so that it was pointing upward, and Rachel could see a tall, lanky frame outlined against the light.
“Rachel, it’s me—Mike.”
“Mike?” Rachel said. “What are you doing here?”
“The same as you,” Mike whispered. “I’m looking for Justin. And you might want to keep your voice down.”
“Just trust me.”
“Fine,” Rachel whispered.
“Have you had any luck yet?” Mike asked.
“I’m pretty sure he’s up in the attic,” Rachel replied. “There’s a light on up there—you probably saw it as you drove up.”
Mike hesitated. “Yeah, I saw it.”
“You don’t think it’s him?”
“I don’t know,” Mike said. “I hope it is.”
Rachel turned on her flashlight and started up the stairs again. “Well, we’d better go look.”
The two of them climbed up through the dark until they reached the last flight of stairs. Then they climbed the few steps up to the topmost level. The attic door stood before them with a thin sliver of light showing out from underneath it.
Rachel reached out for the old-fashioned crystal doorknob, and Mike moved suddenly to stop her.
“Wait!” he hissed.
But she was already turning the handle, and the door to the attic swung open easily.
Inside the room was a lantern sitting in the middle of the floor. Otherwise, the room was empty.
Rachel and Mike stepped into the room.
“Do you think he was in here?” Rachel whispered.
“Maybe,” Mike replied.
“You don’t seem very surprised to not see him here,” Rachel said. “What did you think was going on up here? Did you think it was pranksters?”
“No.” Mike seemed oddly reluctant to go on.
“Mike, what’s going on in this house?” Rachel said.
“You don’t know?”
“No, I don’t.”
Mike cast a nervous glance over at the doorway. The attic landing yawned black and cavernous beyond it.
“Do you mind if I close the door?” Mike asked. “I don’t like the idea of someone sneaking up on us.”
“If it makes you feel better,” Rachel said.
Mike shut the door and then sat down by the lantern.
Rachel sat down opposite him. “I’m guessing you have some idea what’s going on with my brother.”
Mike ran his hands over his face and then looked over at Rachel.
“Okay,” he said. “So you haven’t heard about the disappearances?”
“No,” she said.
“It’s about ten people so far,” Justin said. “And they’ve all disappeared into this house.”
“What?” Rachel said. “That’s not possible. I would have heard if ten people had gone missing from our town.”
“They haven’t gone missing from our town,” Justin replied. “They’ve gone missing from all over the country. Ghost hunters from all over have come to investigate this house. And they haven’t been heard from since then.”
“I think I would have heard about that, too.”
“Not necessarily,” Mike said. “They disappeared one at a time. And no one can prove they came to this house—after all, no bodies have ever been found. We just know this is where they were headed when they disappeared.”
“Then where are their cars?” Rachel asked. “If they came out here and disappeared, their cars should be here at least. There’s no other way to get out here.”
“There’s the spirit portal.”
“The spirit portal?”
“It’s by the old well in the town square. All you have to do is walk through the portal in the right frame of mind, and you’ll be transported here. And you need to know it’s there in the first place.”
“I see,” Rachel said.
“And all the investigators parked at their hotels in town and then walked over to the spirit portal. Their cars were found abandoned at the hotels.”
“And you believe a spirit portal is a real thing?” Rachel asked.
“Of course it is,” Mike said. “How else do you think all those people got over here without cars?”
“Why weren’t they seen?” Rachel asked.
“Why weren’t they seen disappearing into thin air?” Rachel asked. “If people carrying ghost-hunting equipment walked up to the old well in the town square and then just vanished, wouldn’t somebody notice that?”
Mike sighed softly. “That’s part of how spirit portals work. There’s always an area of localized distortion around them. They actually generate a channel that enters the spirit realm—you travel through that to the next human world destination. A lot of people are frightened and disoriented by spiritual energy—even when it’s positive. So they just tend not to look. And like I said, there’s localized distortion—and that affects human senses, too.”
“And what would create something like that?”
“Strong emotion,” Mike said.
“I see,” Rachel said again. “So you’re saying ten ghost hunters—”
“Paranormal investigators.”
“Paranormal investigators—with all their equipment walked up to a well and were magically—”
Spiritually transported to the Gray House,” Rachel said.
“Yes,” Mike said.
“And I assume my brother took that route also?”
“Well, yes,” Mike said. “The town square isn’t that far from the high school. And he also didn’t want anyone to know that he was coming here.”
“Why not?” Rachel asked.
Mike turned his head suddenly.
“Wait! Did you hear that?” he hissed.
Their voices had begun to drift up in volume, and Mike quickly brought his back down to a hoarse whisper.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Rachel whispered back.
“I’d better go check.”
Mike stood and walked noiselessly to the door. Then he switched on his flashlight and opened the door carefully.
Mike shone his flashlight up and down the landing and then returned to the room, closing the door behind him.
“I thought I heard footsteps,” Mike said.
“But no one’s there?” Rachel asked.
“No one I can see at least,” Mike said.
He sat down again.
“So why didn’t Justin want anyone to know that he was coming over here?” Rachel asked.
Mike cast Rachel a furtive glance. “Well, he didn’t want you to know because he thought you would think it was silly. And he didn’t want me to know because I would have told him it was way too dangerous.”
“What?” Rachel asked. “Filming a ghost-hunting show?”
“No,” Mike said. “Justin changed his mind after he realized what was going on here. He wasn’t planning a show anymore. He was planning a rescue mission.”
“He what?” Rachel’s voice rose above a whisper, and Mike quickly shushed her.
“Keep your voice down,” he hissed. “We’ve got to keep a low profile while we’re in this house.”
“Don’t we want Justin to know we’re here?” Rachel asked.
“Justin, yes,” Mike said. “The spirits—no. The word is that spirits are luring people here and trapping them—possibly so that they can use their energy to manifest themselves.”
“Okay,” Rachel said, rising. “We have different opinions, but we both think Justin is here somewhere. Since we’re already at the top of the house, I’m going to search each room from top to bottom until I find my brother. You can come with me if you like.”
Rachel switched on her flashlight and moved toward the door. Mike quickly went after her.
“Yeah, you’re right. We should find Justin. But let’s be careful. So far the spirits don’t seem to be too aware of our presence. I’d like to keep it that way.”
“So we’ll be careful,” Rachel said. “It makes sense to be careful in an old house anyway.”
She reached out for the antique crystal knob but was startled to see that it was turning on its own. A moment later, the door was flung wide open, and a man with white hair and a red birthmark that ran from his chin to his neck stood outlined in the doorway.
“What are you kids doing in here?”
Both Rachel and Mike jumped back, startled.
“Who are you?” Rachel said.
“Who am I?” the man sputtered. “I’m the caretaker. Who are you?”
“We’re—” Rachel began.
“We saw the light,” Mike said quickly, gesturing to the lantern, “and since it’s Halloween, we thought we’d come up and see what’s going on.”
“Well, there’s no party up here,” the man said.
“We thought the house was abandoned,” Rachel said. “We didn’t know anybody was still taking care of it.”
“This is private property,” the man replied. “And our arrangements are none of your business.”
“Sorry we intruded,” Mike said, edging around the man. “We’ll be going now.”
“Wait,” Rachel said. “We’re looking for—”
“Some Halloween fun,” Mike said. “And this clearly isn’t the place for it.”
He grabbed Rachel by the hand and pulled her around the man and out onto the landing.
The man said nothing and simply glared at them.
“We have our own flashlights,” Mike said. “So we don’t need you to escort us down the stairs or anything. We’ll just show ourselves out.”
Justin flipped on his flashlight and dragged Rachel toward the stairs.
“I already have my flashlight on,” Rachel said.
“We can use both of them,” Mike said quickly. “Good night, Mister-whatever-your-name-is.”
Rachel glanced over her shoulder. The door to the attic was already shut.
“Come on,” Mike said, tugging on Rachel’s hand. “Let’s get out of here while we still can.”
“We haven’t found Justin yet,” Rachel protested.
“We’ll—uh—we’ll look for him outside,” Mike said.
He continued to hurry down the stairs, and Rachel focused on trying to light his way so he didn’t stumble in the dark.
Soon they had made it all the way down to the ground floor. And then they were out of the house and running across the porch and down the stairs.
Mike threw himself against his car, which was now parked next to Rachel’s, and leaned against it, panting.
“What was that all about?” Rachel asked as she joined him. “Why didn’t you want to ask that guy about Justin?”
Mike took in several big gulps of air and then seemed to calm down. “I don’t know. The guy just gave me a weird feeling. And he’s a caretaker in a house that doesn’t actually have a caretaker. It just seemed to me that whatever’s going on he must be in on it.”
“Oh,” Rachel said. “I thought maybe you thought he was a ghost.”
Mike’s eyes widened, and he turned to stare at her.
“He wasn’t a ghost, Mike,” Rachel said. “He opened the door. I don’t think ghosts can do that.”
“Yeah,” Mike said. “That’s a good point.”
“Besides, how do you know the house doesn’t have a caretaker?”
“Everybody knows the house is abandoned. The Green family left, and nobody owns that place.”
“How do you know someone didn’t quietly buy it?” Rachel asked.
Mike shook his head. “There’s no one to buy it from. Anyone who is staying at that house is actually a squatter.”
He cast a glance up at the light that still burned in the attic.
“Whoever that guy is we definitely can’t trust him.”
“That’s not going to help us find Justin,” Rachel said.
“I know.” Mike rubbed his hands over his face. “I just—don’t know what to do at the moment.”
“What about this spirit portal?” Rachel asked.
“What about it?”
“Where does it lead? Does it go inside the house? Or somewhere nearby? If we find where the spirit portal is, we’ll have a starting point for where Justin went.”
Mike perked up. “Yeah—that’s a good idea.”
He smirked a little. “So you’re saying you believe in spirit portals now?”
“No,” Rachel said. “But I assume Justin did. For all I know, he just ran like crazy until he got here. But if he thought he was arriving at a spirit portal, and that’s a place we can go, then that’s good enough for me.”
Mike looked at her for a moment. “Skeptical yet open-minded. Interesting.”
Rachel looked back at him, and his gaze left her feeling a little light-headed.
She quickly looked back toward the house. “So do you know where the spirit portal is?”
Mike looked toward the house also. “I believe it’s in there. One of the earliest investigators uploaded video of their arrival. They were in a big, empty room—so they were definitely inside. But it was night, and the only light came from their equipment.”
“You couldn’t tell what room it was?” Rachel asked.
“No,” Mike said. “But I don’t think it was in the attic—we were in there long enough, and I didn’t see any sign of it.”
“So we’ll have to search the whole house?”
“Afraid so.”
As they looked up at the house, the light in the attic went out.
“And that just made our job a little more difficult,” Mike said.

*You can read Part 3 here.*
Thanks very much for reading!

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  1. Love the detail. "Old-fashioned crystal doorknob" - you must have visited houses from this era. I like that Rachel isn't going to swallow everything right away, but Mike sure knows a lot so I guess she'll learn more, too. Thanks for the first 2 parts :)