Chapter 16

I found my iron rod pretty quickly, I picked it up no problem.

Now what? Neither of us could hear anything and we had no idea what to do next.

"What should we do now?" asked Luke.

I sighed. "Back down to the kitchen, I guess."

He was nearest to the ladder so he went down first. I took my time going over there and started to climb down after him. I found him standing at the bottom, staring at that door again. This part of the building hadn't been very well explored, and I started becoming certain we should look in that room. As I reached the bottom, I wanted to say so to Luke, but he just disappeared.

I heard banging. I panicked. "No Luke! Where'd you go?"

"Sorry Tanya!" shouted Luke apologetically. "I'm in here!"

The door opened by itself. The room was just empty, nothing interesting. Luke was standing in front of the window, looking quite relaxed. I walked over to him.

He smiled sheepishly. "This was where Robert first saw me. He came in 'cos he saw me looking through this window." He turned back to look out. "When no one was with me, I'd stare out this window, watching the world go by. This neighbourhood really is peaceful, you know." I looked behind me for no reason. I think I was just bored of seeing nothing out the window. I found it odd that the door to the room was shut, I never heard it close. Luke was silent for a while, thinking about something maybe. "I also saw Robert leaving with Alicia out this window," he explained quietly, regretfully. "I tried to warn him. Back then, I recognised her, but I didn't know she was my sister. Robert said he'd come back. He never did.

"She's gonna get you, too." When he said that, he had sounded so mechanical. At first, I hadn't realised he had changed the topic.

"What?" I stupidly asked.

"You saw the blood through the peephole. So did Robert. So did Terrance. And Tristan. And Mike. And Carl. And they all left with the same woman. I watched her take them all with her from this window. She killed them all, and more."

I was shaking again. Earlier Luke had promised me that nothing would happen, that I was being silly when I was predicting my death. Now he was so certain that I would die no matter what. "I'm a girl," I said. "She's only killed boys. Why would she kill me?"

"I don't know," he answered simply, reminding me of an office-boy know-it-all. "The door never lies."

I was trying hard to fit this-Luke-now with that-Luke-earlier. "You said you'd make sure nothing would happen to me," I pleaded. I was really on edge. He still stared out that window, not even twitching.

"And nothing will, because you will do as I say," he said reasonably. "I can see her coming."

"Huh?" Alicia? Here? Now? It couldn't be true! I wandered over to the window. Sure enough I could make out a woman approaching the front door. She seemed to be carrying something. Suddenly I came alive. All the thoughts going through my head: what I had learned, what all the ghosts wanted to do, what I still needed to learn.

I still wanted to know how and why she picked her victims. I still wanted to know why Ray's body was never hidden. Some sick part of me even wanted to know her motive, but I decided soon after that knowing her motive was not the top priority. I watched her quickly hurry away from the door. It wasn't a scared hurry, just an easy jog to fetch something.

"Luke I-" I gasped when I looked up at him. This was not the Luke I knew! He resembled a fresh corpse. He slowly swivelled his head, like a robot. His eyes were so lifeless. The room temperature had also gone down a few notches. I tried to control my shaking. "Luke I'm- I can't stay here."

"You have no choice," he said robotically.

I quickly paced along the room, trying to figure out a way to reason with him. But I saw something that kept me on edge: sourceless shadows. They were just pinned at random spots in the room. I could tell ghosts were watching me, and more were gathering in the room. I looked back at Luke, who hadn't moved. At all. Not even a twitch.

"I won't leave with her!" I blurted. "Everyone she's murdered she took away with her, so I won't leave." He didn't react. I took some shakey breaths. "Please Luke, there are some things only she knows. Just let me talk-"

"NO MORE TALKING!" I somehow lost my balance and fell to the ground. Angry-zombie-Luke was back. Out of nowhere all the blood had appeared in all the right places, exactly how he had died. I could also hear that clanging, it wasn't loud but it was clear. clang...clang...clang... Who was doing it? "She won't kill anyone else!" he hissed.

I felt small and helpless. I must've sounded it too. "I came here to find out what happened to Ray, remember? I still don't know why she dumped his corpse out front and ran. We still don't why she had to be the one to let out boys like Carl and kill them." He just glared at me, clenching his fists all the while. "You can turn invisible. I'll find out the answers for you. I won't get in your way. Please."

Just silence. He didn't say anything, he didn't do anything. I sat and shivered. Nothing seemed to happen. clang...clang...clang... I then heard something. A voice. Was it...female?

I looked up at Luke again. "She's calling out my name," I realised. "She'll get suspicious if I don't go down."

The clanging stopped. At first I thought Luke wouldn't answer me, but then I heard the door swing open. I scrambled up as quickly as possible and rushed out of the room, which was getting even more filled up by shadows. I was surprised to find a light outside. It was a flashlight, on the floor. Of course, Luke had dropped it when he teleported into the room. I picked it up happily. My hands were full again.


I ran down the hall. I stopped at the top of the stairs. I saw the front door standing open, a pile of stuff on the floor, a number of lit candles standing at various places. A woman was lighting some more candles. She also had a large flashlight, which was lying at the bottom of the stairs and lighting up the pile of stuff and the door. The woman had ashy-brown hair and dark eyes. She was wearing a dark-coloured long-sleeved dress, with a coat over the top. She seemed to be inspecting me but she looked, well, normal. She looked a bit too skinny, like someone who never eats enough, and her facial skin looked a bit rough, and her eyes were a bit stern. Wow, no one could ever guess she was a killer.

"Tanya," she began. "I'm Alicia. I'm glad to see you're alright."

The door slammed shut. That was the loudest slam I had ever heard. I let out a shakey breath. "Now we're both trapped."

Alicia looked freaked by the door slamming, but when she turned back around and spoke, she sounded like it was normal. "Normally I can let myself out with an opening spell, but this time I hope to banish the trapped spirits of this place. I hope you have nothing against Wicca? It would be good to have some help."

I looked at the pile of stuff. "That's what that stuff's for?"

"Yes, they're all components."

I nodded. I started going down the stairs. "How is it you know my name?" I knew the answer already, but I had to play dumb.

"Earlier in the night I saw your father. I didn't want him to endanger himself, so I convinced him to let me in to find you and bring you back out."

"And you came here to banish the ghosts?"

An embarrassed smile appeared on her face. "Well, actually, I've been aware of the spirits in this place and their potential danger for some time. To make sure no one fell victim I cast a special mark here. I'm always informed when someone enters this place, so I come to set them free."

Angry thoughts littered my brain. I was glad I had reached the bottom of the stairs, it meant I could keep my head down as I reached the floor. "So it's like a magical security camera?"

"Somewhat, yes."

"Well, I've never done a spell before, so what do you need me to do?"

Alicia smiled gratefully. "Well first we have to move everything into a different room, but there's quite a bit here so we'll both have to make two trips."

I swapped my iron rod for the huge flashlight she had, while she carried a bunch of candles and a lot of chalk. The room we went into was where Luke and I had sorted through documents earlier in the day. In there she placed more candles and I helped light them. While placing the candles there was a point when she gripped my shoulder, trying to keep her balance it seemed. I thought nothing of it. The room started looking pretty yellow-orangey, although the higher you looked, the darker it got. Whatever Alicia was doing, it definitely involved her seeing the floor.

"I can only apologise for taking so long," said Alicia when we collected the stuff for the final time. "I couldn't help wonder what kind of things you could be seeing in this place."

"Well you're here now," I murmured. "You have no idea what I've seen." With our arms full of stuff, we went back to the room. "I had this weird dream of a wrecked house, I saw myself as a zombie, and I saw the most horrible, horrible creatures. They were all bandaged and moving weird and covered in blood. And did I mention the shadows without sources?" I paused as we laid all the stuff on the floor. I put my hands on my hips. "You know what the scariest ghost was?" She looked at me expectantly. I swallowed, I was getting nervous just thinking of him. "That executioner, with the axe."

She flinched. I swear I saw her eyes widen.

"You've seen it too?" I asked.

"Many times," she answered in a quiet, shakey voice.

"What is it? What caused it?"

She let out a breath as she picked up some chalk. "A product of someone's guilt and despair, I'm sure."

Huh? What did that mean? I was pretty sure I was understanding dead people better than alive people at that moment. I watched her as she slowly started drawing a circle with the chalk. I shivered and blew out a pile of vapour. I could sense Luke was getting restless. It was now or never; there was no point in me acting dumb anymore. I clutched my arms.

"Alicia, can I ask you something? And can you answer me honestly?"

She looked up at me in surprise. "Of course."

"The last body you brought here, of a teenage boy, why did you leave him near the door instead of in the cellar with all the others?"

I think she suddenly turned deranged. The way she looked at me made me think that she would pull out machine guns and fire them all over the place while crying any second. And then she stood up and straightened herself. Was she going to answer? No. She hissed something-I have no idea what-and then something slammed me against the wall. And I was held there. I couldn't move. I was glad I wasn't holding anything.

Alicia giggled. "You know. You know too much."

I forced myself to talk. I just wanted to run away from her. "Tell me why! Why did you leave my boyfriend's body outside the cellar!"

She sneered. "Boyfriend! At least you had one!" She started whimper. "I had to work so much, so long, for so many hours, in terrible terrible places. No one respected me. No man would come near me!" At this point I think she wanted to cry. "I had to use my precious little brother. He was the only one who showed me affection. His was the only company I could look forward to. He was the only one who could give me release." Alicia sighed dramatically. "I never meant to kill him!" she screeched.

She collapsed onto the floor, clutching her head. I still wanted to know, so I never let up my questioning. "But you did kill him. You wrapped up his body and took him here, left him in the cellar. I bet that security spell you cast here was to prevent people from finding out! Any young teenage boys you lured to your house."

Alicia looked up at me again. This time she looked confident. "I assure you, that didn't happen often. Very few boys managed to trap themselves in here. Most of the time I sent children away."

"And that last boy? Your last victim?"

She looked almost happy and peaceful as she said this: "He was walking by himself on a dark night. I lured him by asking for the time and he met his fate. He was mine, all mine. What a day. But then I had to bring him here...again...and like always I heard that clanging throughout the whole house. I wanted to reach the cellar but there he was! I had to run, but the door was shut. I barely made it out." She slowly stood up, pressing her hands against the wall as if she was climbing up it, but she really needed the support.

"The executioner was waiting for you in front of the cellar." I sounded so calm. "Is he a product of your regret?"

She looked at me desperately. "Why should I regret? Such sexual pleasure is a right." She laughed bitterly and turned around. I couldn't help compare her to an addict in denial. She went back to drawing her circle.

I fidgeted. I didn't want to think about what she was possibly planning. How annoying, I needed to scratch my neck. My right arm felt like it was being dragged through tar but I scratched my neck. Oh, that felt good. Wait. I had moved my arm? My head was leaning a little forward too. I couldn't do that seconds ago. I lifted my left arm and found the same result. Alicia started playing around with some bowls.

"What do you plan to do with me?" I asked. "Was Luke right? Will you kill me?"

She froze. While I had spoken, I had shifted my legs forward. She spoke so so quietly, so sadly. "I assure you; this will be the last time I use dark magic. The final time. These spirits can never find rest, and neither can I. I have to get rid of them. And I need your blood."

She wanted me to be her sacrifice? That's what I was hearing. I tensed up. Seriously tensed up. I was preparing myself to push a boulder and I growled with the effort of pulling myself away from this stupid wall. "What did you do to me?!?"

"I placed a sigil on your shoulder. You're under my control." She sounded pleased with herself.

Luke appeared right in front of her. Alicia looked up at her little brother; mouth open, body frozen. I stared at him, too. He was a corpse, blood in all the places she had cut him. But this time, he looked sad, so sad. In fact, I could see tears. "I understand now," he whimpered, "I understand." I was curious about what he was going to say, but I also wanted to get to Alicia. I waded through the invisible quicksand just at the thought of throwing her a few punches. I still didn't know how I could do this, considering she was holding me in place just now. "I never knew that my sister was lost, I was so oblivious. You're not Alicia, you're someone using her."

I stopped. I could see bloody hands reaching through the floor. Heads started to phase through the floor, following the hands. I shivered. It had turned so cold. I looked up and saw hands and heads struggling through the walls. I could see some faces just then. I could recognise some; they were the corpses I had seen, but these faces were not dead. All these boys looked beyond pissed.

Alicia was shaking her head. "I was never lost. I made a mistake, can you ever forgive me?"

Luke was looking stoney. "Whoever you are, you made me like you. To free myself, I need to free my sister too."

A bloody hand grabbed her arm. Alicia screamed. She was suddenly a cornered mouse, fidgeting and crawling everywhere as she looked for a way out. But she was surrounded. The ghosts who had emerged from the floor were crawling towards her, reaching for her. Others were still emerging. The ghosts from the walls were limping along like genuine zombies. I think all the victims had turned up, just to grab Alicia. But while Alicia was scrambling and looking all over for a way out, I was also searching the entire room and twisting every which way. Every so often I passed through a ghost and a part of my leg would get frozen or something, but that didn't bother me. I wanted to know where Luke had gone. He had just disappeared.

"Tanya! Help me!" screeched Alicia.

I stopped moving and locked eyes with Ray. He just stood there, bloody, oblivious, staring at me. I couldn't believe I was seeing him like this. It made me hate Alicia all over again. "Why should I?" I asked with clenched teeth.

I was standing directly in front of her. I watched her squirm as more ghosts grabbed her and held her down. It wasn't long before she stopped moving altogether. Something froze her. I stared at her nonchalantly, wondering why she was looking at me so desperately, and why some of the ghosts had started grinning. But she wasn't looking at me, was she? Breathlessly, instinctively, I turned around.

How did he get there? The executioner was standing before me, wielding his axe, standing in front of the wall like he had marched through it. I could see him so clearly. He was tall, muscular, but through his helmet he could see everything, even if I couldn't see his eyes. He was staring right at me. Where was the clanging? It was so silent. He took a step towards me, but he didn't threaten me. He took another. I knew who his target was. I closed my eyes.

My only active sense at that moment was hearing. I could hear some of the ghosts moan, I could hear Alicia scream, I could hear the executioner walk right through me, but I didn't feel cold. She screamed and screamed, and screamed her loudest when I heard something hit the floor hard.
© Ruth Hüneke 2009