Here is Part 4 of The Gray House Ghost. If you haven't read Part 3 yet, you can find it here.
The Gray House Ghost
By Catherine Mesick
Rachel looked around the room—it wasn’t nearly as bright as it had seemed at first. But it was definitely no longer dark, and flashlights weren’t necessary. The room was comfortably lit like it was dawn or dusk, but the light wasn’t coming from outside. The room was suffused with a soft, green light that seemed to be coming from the air around them. The world outside the window was still dark, and when Rachel looked at Mike, his skin looked unnaturally pale, and his eyes stood out large and dark in the green glow.
But despite the strangeness of the light, they were still definitely in the same place.
“How can this be the spirit portal?” Rachel asked. “We haven’t gone anywhere.”
“Spirit portals only flow in one direction,” Mike replied. “You can start at the well in the town square and end up here, but you can’t start here and end up at the well.”
“So what happened, then?”
Mike glanced around in the eerie green air. “Well, my best guess is that we’ve slipped through into the spirit realm. We’re still in the same place, but we can see what’s happening on another plane of existence.”
“Is that common with spirit portals?” Rachel asked.
“No,” Mike said. “This situation is very unusual. But I think everything in this house is unusual.”
He took a deep breath.
“I think we’ll need to be careful. We’re in a place now where we can see spirits.”
“And does that mean they can see us?” Rachel asked.
Mike shut off his flashlight and flashed her a grin.
“They can always see us,” he said.
They stepped out into the hall, and they were immediately hit with a bright, blazing light. The light pulsed and then disappeared. Moments later, a breeze picked up that quickly turned into a strong wind. The wind caught at their clothes and pulled at Rachel’s hair so that it swirled around her face.
Soon a roar sounded from the lower levels of the house, and Rachel turned just in time to see what looked like a ball of fire flying up the main staircase toward them.
“What is that?” Rachel cried.
But before Mike could reply, the fireball slammed into them, and everything went black.
“Rachel! Rachel!” hissed a voice in her ear.
Rachel opened her eyes and looked around. She was lying on the floor, and the air around her had an odd greenish tinge to it.
“Mike?” she said.
Soon Mike’s face loomed into view.
“Rachel, are you okay?” he whispered urgently.
“Yes, I’m okay.” Rachel sat up. “What happened?”
“I don’t know for sure,” Mike replied, “but I think we got hit by a mass of pure energy. Something was vacuuming all the energy in this whole area up into itself. But it seems to be gone now.”
“How long were we out?” Rachel asked.
“About two hours,” Mike said. He cast a nervous look at his watch. “In fact, it’s almost midnight.”
“What’s so special about midnight?” Rachel asked.
“That’s when the spectral Halloween party goes on.”
“But that’s just shadows and whispers, right?”
“It is in the regular world,” Mike said. “But we’re in the spirit realm now. I have no idea what could happen.”
Moments later, soft music began to play, and Rachel and Mike hurried over to the balcony at the top of the stairs. Some instinct made both of them crouch down below the rail.
The sound of mingled voices soon rose up to them, and as they watched, shadowy figures began to appear on the floor below as if they were walking out of a mist. The figures soon seemed to solidify, and Rachel and Mike could see men and women milling around below them. All the guests wore sumptuous clothes and masks, and they walked around talking, drinking, and laughing—a party was clearly in progress.
At a signal from the conductor, the band in the corner struck up a lively tune.
The guests moved to the side, and soon the room was clear for dancing.
The gentlemen approached the ladies with small courtly bows, and then couple after couple stepped out onto the dance floor.
Before long, the room was filled with swirling couples, and the soft sound of rustling silk could be heard whenever there was a lull in the music. Light from oil lamps and candelabra glittered on the fine jewelry of the women and on the sequined masks of dancers of both sexes.
One woman in a particularly fine gray gown that matched her hair, stood apart from the crowd and looked over the dancers anxiously.
Apparently not finding what she was looking for, the woman turned away from the crowd and hurried up the stairs toward Rachel and Mike.
The two of them froze as the woman reached the top of the stairs and stopped right next to them.
But the woman didn’t even glance in their direction. Instead, she clasped her hands together and took a deep breath as if gathering herself.
The woman hesitated a moment longer and then approached the bedroom in which Rachel and Mike had found the spirit portal.
The woman raised a hand and knocked tentatively at the door.
“Mary, dear, are you still in there?” the woman asked.
“Yes, mama,” came the faint reply.
“Are you well, dear?”
“Yes, mama, quite well.”
“Mary, you’re missing the dancing,” the woman said. “And you know this party is as much for you as it is for your brother.”
“I know, mama. I’ll just be another few moments.”
The woman hesitated again. “Speaking of your brother, do you know where he is?”
“I believe he’s in town,” Mary said. “But he should be along presently.”
Mary’s mother frowned. “In town? Robert’s been in town a lot lately. Is everything all right with him?”
“Yes, mama. I believe he just had some business to attend to.”
“Well, all right,” the woman said. “I hope he hurries. Emily will be here soon. We’re lucky that she happens to be late tonight.”
“Yes, mama,” Mary replied.
The woman started to speak again but then thought better of it. She turned and walked back down the stairs, her face a mask of worry.
Shortly after the woman rejoined the party, soft footsteps ran along the hall from the other direction, and a girl of about sixteen hurried up to the closed bedroom door. The girl was wearing a plain dress and an apron, and she tapped lightly at the door.
“Miss Mary,” she whispered. “It’s Ada.”
The door flew open, and a young woman of about eighteen or nineteen with an elaborate set of blond ringlets and a rose silk gown looked out.
“Did they find him?” Mary asked urgently.
“Yes, miss,” Ada replied. “Joseph just returned—he ran all the way back. They found him in town.”
“Where is he now?” Mary asked. “Is he here?”
“No, miss. Mr. Robert is still in town. Eli and Henry are trying to bring him back now. Joseph said he was in a bad way.”
Mary pursed her lips. “Was he drunk?”
“No, miss. But he lost a lot tonight. Joseph said he’s really broken up about it—he’s not in his right mind at the moment.”
“Where’s my mother now?” Mary asked. “Can you see her?”
Ada tiptoed to the balcony and looked down to the party below. Then she hurried back.
“Mrs. Green is talking with the minister’s wife.”
“All right,” Mary said. “Thank you, Ada. Let me know as soon as Robert gets here. And make sure Eli and Henry bring him in through the back. Don’t let anyone see him come in.”
Ada turned to go, and Mary called her back.
“Get someone to watch out for Emily, too. As soon as she gets here, bring her into the small parlor and let me know. I’ll tell her Robert’s sick or something.”
Ada ran off the way she had come, and Mary closed her door once again.
Shortly after Ada disappeared down the hall, the front door opened.
A girl with a well-dressed set of brown curls and an exquisite blue gown walked into the room with a small group of people surrounding her.
The girl removed her equally exquisite blue wrap and turned a pretty smile on the servant who stepped forward to receive it.
But the girl’s expression changed as she looked over the crowd. Her wide, dark eyes scanned all the faces in the crowd apprehensively, and the hand that held her sequined mask shook.
Another young woman in a glittering gown stepped forward to give her a warm embrace, but the girl returned it perfunctorily, her eyes still on the crowd.
With a glance toward her mistress's door, a little maid in white darted toward the girl in blue.
But Mrs. Green noticed the girl at the same time and moved toward her with a smile.
“Emily!” she said, holding out her arms in greeting.
The little maid glanced toward Mrs. Green and froze in her tracks.
Emily and Mrs. Green embraced, and then Mrs. Green stepped back and placed her hands on the girl’s shoulders.
“Why, Emily, you’re shaking. Are you quite well, dear?”
Emily looked up at Mrs. Green, and tears began to fall from her large, dark eyes.
“Robert’s not here, is he?” Emily’s voice was tremulous.
Mrs. Green glanced around quickly. “No, dear. But he was just delayed a little longer in town. He’ll be here very soon.”
“No, he won’t be!” Emily said, her voice rising. “Robert’s not going to be here. And what’s more, he doesn’t love me!”
“Emily,” Mrs. Green’s voice was soothing.
“It’s true, mama,” Emily cried. “Oh, how I wanted to call you mama. But now that will never happen!”
The other guests turned to stare. Emily’s voice was rising shrilly.
“What a thing to say, child,” Mrs. Green admonished. “Of course you’re going to call me mama. You and Robert will be married at Christmas, and then you and Mary will both be my daughters.”
Emily pulled away. “No! Robert doesn’t love me. He’s in love with one of your servant girls!”
“Why, Emily!” Mrs. Green said. “What a terrible thing to say! Whoever could have given you such an idea?”
Mrs. Green darted a nervous glance at her guests. Many pairs of eyes were now staring at them, and some of the couples had even ceased their dancing.
“Everyone knows!” Emily cried. “Everyone! It’s all over town!”
Mrs. Green put an arm around Emily. “Come along, dear, we’ll go up and see Mary. She’ll put this foolishness out of your mind.”
She began to lead Emily up the stairs.
Emily giggled hysterically. “And of course I’m the last one to know. Oh, how everyone must have been laughing at me.”
“Hush, dear,” Mrs. Green said. “It’s not true.”
“It is true!” Emily cried. “Everyone knows! I told you.”
Emily and Mrs. Green were rising steadily toward Rachel and Mike.
“It’s not true,” Mrs. Green said again. “Talk to Mary—it’s not true. Mary will tell you.”
“If it’s not true, then where is he?” Emily demanded. “I’ll tell you where he is! He’s with her!”
“And if it is true, do you know what I’ll do? I’ll jump right in the river!”
The two of them reached the top of the stairs and stood a few feet away from where Rachel and Mike were kneeling.
“You must not say such things, Emily. You mustn’t allow yourself to get in one of your states,” Mrs. Green said.
She suddenly brightened. “And for no reason at all. Look, there’s Robert over there. Can’t you see him in his best blue jacket?”
Mrs. Green pointed to a shadowy corner on the floor below. A dark-haired young man in a blue jacket and a black mask was leaning close to a young woman also in a mask.
Suddenly a strong wind picked up, and it flew past Rachel and Mike and down the stairs. But though the wind pulled at Rachel and Mike’s hair and clothes, it didn’t disturb a single candle or costume at the party, and the guests seemed to be completely unaware of it.
The wind surged even stronger than before, and it now seemed to swirl around the young man below.
Along with the wind came a sound—a deep, booming voice that seemed to fill the entire house.
“Turn around!” the voice commanded. “Turn around!”
The young man in blue leaned close to the woman, and their lips met in a kiss.
The wind whipped up harder and harder, and Rachel’s hair began to fly around her face so fiercely that she couldn’t see a thing.
“Turn around!” the voice cried. “Turn around!”
“That’s him all right,” said another voice—much more faintly—Rachel thought it sounded like Emily.
“Emily! Emily! Stop!” cried another voice that sounded like Mrs. Green.
There was a piercing shriek then, followed by other screams.
The wind seemed to whip itself into a frenzy, and then suddenly, it was gone.
Rachel looked around. The lights, the people, and the party had all gone. The house was empty and still and once again bathed in an eerie greenish light.
“What just happened?” Rachel asked.
Mike’s face was grim. “We just got a reenactment of this house’s most traumatic event—and it was combined with an intruder.”
Rachel frowned. “What do you mean by an intruder?”
“Someone is trying to change the things that happened here,” Mike said.
He stood up. “Come on. I think we can still catch him.”
*You can read Part 5 here.*
*You can read Part 5 here.*
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