Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Gray House Ghost, Part 3 (New Short Story)

Here is Part 3 of The Gray House Ghost. If you haven't read Part 2 yet, you can find it here.

The Gray House Ghost

By Catherine Mesick

The two of them started toward the house again, but this time, Mike motioned Rachel toward the back.
“I’m not sure we should risk going in through the front door again,” Mike said. “Let’s see if there’s another way in.”
There was indeed another entrance at the back of the house, but Mike took a long look at a set of double doors that were set into the ground.
“You want to go in through the basement?” Rachel asked.
Mike nodded as he stepped over to examine the basement doors. “Going in this way will put us as far as possible from Mr. Caretaker up there. We can search the house systematically from bottom to top, and with any luck we’ll be able to avoid that guy.”
“Are you serious?” Rachel said. “You really want to go into a haunted house through the basement?”
“This is by all accounts a benign haunting,” Mike said as he eased one of the basement doors open. “That’s why the disappearances are so strange. Something has gone wrong recently.”
He shot her a sly glance. “And anyway, I thought you didn’t believe in haunted houses.”
“I don’t,” Rachel said.
“It just seems like a good principle to follow—even in a house that’s only allegedly haunted.”
“Interesting,” Mike said, giving her a long look.
Then he opened the second basement door and stepped gingerly down the wooden steps.
Rachel followed him.
The basement was large and empty and just as free of cobwebs and dust as the rest of the house had been.
Rachel shone her flashlight over the cavernous room, and the light picked out a wooden staircase against the far wall. Other than that there was nothing of interest in the room.
“Do you see the spirit portal in here?” Rachel asked.
Mike went over the basement carefully with his flashlight.
“No—I don’t think it’s down here. I’ve never seen one before, but I’ve heard there should be a visual distortion around it. And I’ve got a good eye for paranormal phenomena. I’ll know it when I see it.”
“Good to know,” Rachel said.
“But you know what I did just realize?” Mike glanced back at the basement doors, which still yawned open. “That guy definitely isn’t the caretaker.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because nothing’s locked up. The front door, the basement door, the attic—they’re all unlocked. He’s not actually taking care of anything.”
“Maybe he’s just—” Rachel began.
She stopped. She couldn’t think of a logical reason why the house should be unlocked.
“Whatever’s going on, he’s in on it,” Mike said.
He began to move toward the stairs.
“Come on. Let’s go quietly. We don’t want that guy to catch us again.”
Mike moved stealthily up the stairs, and Rachel followed him.
At the top of the stairs was a door—unlocked like the others, and Mike opened it cautiously. Rachel and Mike stepped out into yet another empty room, and their flashlights picked out no distinguishing features.
“What do you suppose this was?” Rachel whispered. “A kitchen maybe?”
Mike simply shook his head.
The two of them moved on into the next room.
“So what’s the story here?” Rachel whispered. “Why is this place haunted?”
“We should do as little talking as possible,” Mike whispered back. “We don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention.”
“I just want to know what I’m supposedly up against in here,” Rachel replied. “Just tell me the short version.”
“Okay,” Mike said. “I can understand that. So, you probably know already that a prominent family named Green lived here for generations. In the 1880s the Greens’ son Robert, the heir to their great fortune, became engaged to a young woman named Emily Stanhope. The two were said to be very much in love, and they planned a Christmas wedding. And then there was a big masked ball here on Halloween, and there were also rumors by that time that Robert was cheating on Emily with a servant girl. And when Emily saw Robert and the girl apparently kissing in a corner, she threw herself off the second-floor balcony onto the main floor below and killed herself right there at the party.”
“That’s awful,” Rachel said.
“It was pretty tragic,” Mike said. “And it caused a huge scandal. The Greens packed up and left after that. They didn’t sell the house—possibly because nobody would touch it. And it’s been vacant ever since. As far as the haunting goes—supposedly lights are seen at night, which is very odd because there’s no electricity in this house, and the rumor is that every Halloween that fateful masked ball is reenacted. The guests reappear in the main hall, the dancing begins, and then the ghost of Emily Stanhope throws herself to her death. The reports say the display is mostly shadows and whispers, but there are those who say you can hear a very audible scream.”
“That’s really sad,” Rachel said. “Are all those spirits supposedly trapped here?”
“No—none of them are trapped here. It’s not an intelligent haunting—it’s residual energy. It never changes, and you can’t interact with it. It’s just the same scene played over and over again. That’s why these disappearances are so disturbing. Something else has moved in here. And the new entity, whatever it is, appears to be malevolent.”
“Great,” Rachel said. “And that’s what my brother walked into?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Mike said. “And whatever is here is likely to be at its most powerful tonight—that’s when the energy that naturally occurs here is at its strongest.”
The two of them continued on through the house without finding anything. Then they came to the enormous front room through which they had originally entered the house. Rachel shone her flashlight over the grand staircase and the still-impressive parquet floor.
“Is this where it happened?” Rachel asked.
“Yes,” Mike replied. “Right around midnight. And this is where the haunting still occurs.”
They went over the huge room carefully, but Rachel found nothing unusual.
“Anything?” she asked Mike.
“No,” he whispered. “I guess it’s time to move upstairs.”
Rachel and Mike started up the stairs, and their ascent was mercifully free of creaks and groans.
At the top of the stairs they found a balcony that overlooked the lower level, and just beyond that was a long hallway lined on either side by closed doors.
While Mike walked down the length of the hallway, Rachel paused and opened the nearest door.
The room was empty as usual, but as Rachel shone her flashlight into it, she imagined for just a moment that she saw the bedroom of a young girl. She could see a bed with embroidered linens, a bureau with perfumes and trinkets, a full length mirror with an ornate stand. And over by the window, a pair of lacy curtains fluttered as if moved by a breeze.
“Do you see something?” whispered a voice by her ear.
Rachel turned to see Mike standing beside her.
She glanced back at the room—it was empty once again. The spell had been broken.
“It’s nothing,” Rachel said. “I was just imagining things.”
“Maybe not,” Mike said.
He pushed the door open a little wider and stepped inside.
He shone his flashlight over the entire room and then came back to Rachel.
“What did you see?” Mike whispered.
“A girl’s bedroom,” Rachel replied. “I saw furniture. I even saw curtains over by the window. It was just my mind playing tricks on me in the dark.”
“No, you might have seen something,” Mike said. “There could be residual energy here just like there is supposed to be downstairs. Residual energy is kind of like an impression—a moment frozen in time. That could be what you saw.”
“Can that help us?” Rachel asked.
“If there’s energy around here, it could be a sign that the portal is close,” Mike said. “We should keep looking.”
Their flashlights picked out a communicating door on the far side of the room, and they walked over to it and pushed it open carefully.
Inside was a small room with several holes cut into the floor. The ends of pipes peeped out through the holes, and Rachel figured that those pipes had once led to plumbing—the room had likely been a bathroom.
Mike stepped inside and shone his flashlight over the room.
“Wait!” he hissed. “I think I see something. There was a flash by that pipe. It could be the distortion we’re looking for.”
Mike crept closer and leaned down.
“Yes! I see it. It’s silver and it’s moving—”
Mike suddenly stumbled backward and placed a hand over his mouth as if to stifle a cry.
He ran into Rachel, and the two of them tumbled toward the open door and fell to the floor.
“What is it?” Rachel whispered. “Did you find the spirit portal?”
Mike jumped quickly to his feet.
Rachel hurriedly got to her feet also. “Then what was it?”
Mike swallowed. “It was a silverfish, okay? Don’t laugh. I can’t stand them—it’s kind of a phobia.”
An involuntary tremor ran through his body.
“I’m not laughing,” Rachel said.
“What?” Mike said.
“I’m not laughing at you,” Rachel replied. “I don’t like them either.”
Mike looked at her. He could see her expression was serious.
“Oh,” he said. “So false alarm, then. No portal in here.”
They walked back into the first room, and Rachel quickly turned her flashlight toward the window.
“There it is again,” she said. “By the window. I thought I saw something fluttering like a curtain.”
Mike turned his flashlight to the same spot.
“There’s nothing there now. Maybe it was just another insect.”
Rachel frowned. “But I could have sworn—”
She walked over to the window and put out her hand.
“It was right here,” she said.
Something shadowy flitted nearby, and Rachel quickly turned toward it.
“There!” she said. “There it is again. It definitely looks like a curtain.”
She reached out for it again.
“Wait!” Mike said sharply. “Don’t touch it yet! I think you might have found—”
Rachel felt her hand close around something soft and delicate, like a feather. In the next instant the room was flooded with light.
She turned around.
Mike had disappeared.
“Mike?” Rachel said. “Mike?”
Her voice began to rise with alarm—it wasn’t normal for a person to disappear.
“Mike, where are you?” Rachel said.
A moment later, he appeared by her side. Mike blinked his eyes several times and then looked around as if dazzled by the light. Then he saw Rachel and started in surprise.
“Whoa. Good to see you again,” he said.
“What’s going on here?” Rachel asked.
Mike smiled. “Congratulations, non-believer. You just found the spirit portal.”

*You can read Part 4 here.*
Thanks very much for reading!

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  1. :O “You really want to go into a haunted house through the basement?” I love it. But the house continues to be an unusual haunted house - not even a creak on the stairs! But that didn't last :) looking forward to part 4