Chapter 2

It was at times like right then that I wished I wasn't so honest with my parents, that I just kept all my secrets bottled up and let them out in absolute angst only among friends, friends who might mislead me down the terrible path of drug addiction and sex. That's the stereotype anyway. Sometimes I want my own space, but I do love my parents.

It was early on Saturday morning that my mom found me packing a backpack. I packed food, 2 bottles of water, a head light and a hand-held flashlight, my cellphone (that I always keep in my jacket pocket anyway) and I also found an iron rod in my house. It's just decoration, honestly. But this time I knew I'd need it. I don't exactly watch Supernatural to be educated about the paranormal but one thing I have learned is that ghosts can least sent away when hit by pure iron. That I couldn't pack though. Anyway, when Mom found me packing I had 2 choices: either lie and say I was going to a friend's for a sleepover or tell the truth. Well I wasn't gonna go anywhere dangerous without at least somebody knowing where I was. My parents didn't like my decision, of course, but I made it clear I needed to try.

At this point I was sitting at the front of the car and my dad was driving me to the house. We didn't say anything. I didn't want to. I didn't want to give the impression that I wouldn't be coming home, but I also knew what (stupid) risks I was taking. I was planning to just cycle 'cos y'know, healthier and better for the environment and stuff. However my dad was feeling really overprotective and insisted on driving me.

We arrived at the house. The sun was shining really bright that day and amazingly, the house didn't look that bad. Well, it looked depressing and abandoned, but I suddenly wondered if I was overreacting with all my preparation. No, definitely not. I distinctly remembered what I felt when I walked up to that door the day before. My dad looked as if he was suspicious of the house. At this point in time, I felt that as soon as I would leave the car, I would be right in the dangerzone.

"Tanya, I'm telling you again, you don't have to do this." Parents always do that, don't they? Try to stop you making a bad decision I mean. Unfortunately, a teenager never listens.

I looked at him regretfully. "You remember how you felt when Grandma had her cancer? You often went around distracted, you said it was because you didn't know if she would survive or not. Well that's how I'm feeling, right now. I don't know how Ray died or even why, so I want to find at least one clue for the police." I sighed. "It's not that I want to do it."

Dad gripped the steering wheel. "Well you're coming home you hear me?"

That confused me. Is a rational, wise adult like him afraid of a haunted house? "Of course I'm coming home. I promised." And I really wanted to stick to it.

He just nodded. "What time should I pick you up?" he asked tightly.

I didn't know how to answer that one. How much time did people spend in a haunted house on average? Suddenly I wished I was a horror buff, then I coulda given him a rough idea. He ended up answering for me.

"As soon as it gets dark you get out of that house. Sunset should be about 5:40 today. I'll pick you up about then. If you're not here then I'll assume something has happened. So what should I do then?"

"Call the police," I told him automatically. "Get an ambulance too."

I opened the door, I saw his face as I closed it. He looked helpless, like some kind of prisoner. It almost made me wanna hop back into the car and beg him to take me home, but I had a mission. As cliché as that sounds.

I turned away and walked straight into the jungle. Even in sunshine the place was eerie, and I definitely could not see any insects. There are supposed to be insects with plants. I headed to the door, telling myself nothing was wrong and the house was just empty. I slowly climbed onto the porch. Again, I felt it, the house seemed to hate me but I had done nothing. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed the handle and opened the door.

Huh, what? I thought I saw a corpse in the main entrance hall. I quickly double-checked. It was Ray's corpse, exactly how I saw it at the crime scene and in the same place too, off centre and to my left, and it blinked out of existence when I fully opened the door. Well, more like flickered out of existence. The floor was empty, no sign of anything having been there. That definitely wasn't a good sign. My grip on the iron rod hardened for assurance. I looked around the main entrance hall, finding it completely devoid of objects of any kind and I didn't hear a thing. It was well lit though, thanks to all the windows. I definitely didn't want to spend the night here.

Well, if I was gonna meet my dad on time, I should make sure the door stays open. Since there was nothing indoors, I stepped back out to look for a heavy doorstop. It didn't take long to find a small stone angel statue, and I managed to sorta drag it inside and have it stand by the door. There, now nothing could shut it. I walked inside, trying to decide where to look first. The bigger rooms are normally downstairs, so I thought I'd try going upstairs first. And upstairs, I had trouble deciding whether to go left or right. I chose right but didn't go all the way down.

Normally I just either opened a door or looked through open doors. The rooms were so empty, I usually just peeked then left. So I looked carefully around the corridor I walked through too, getting out my flashlight so I could shine it into the dark corners. One room had a surprise though. I opened a door and found a painting leaning against a wall. The painting was really well done, although a little bit graphic. It showed a crowd of people, from about 4 centuries ago I thought, standing around an execution site. You could see the prisoners lined up, as well as the ominous, shadowy executioner, holding his axe and wearing the hood of his robe up. The realism was awesome, but the colours were faded, showing it to have been done years ago. I found it weird that there was no dust on the thing. Come to think of it, there wasn't any dust anywhere.

I left the room, walked further along and reached for another door handle. As soon as I gripped it, I felt something wet. There was blood on the handle! My hand too! Ew! I wiped my hand quickly on my jeans to get rid of the stuff. Except the blood had disappeared; from the handle, my hand and my jeans were still clean. My heart was still pounding from the shock. I calmed down a little and slowly opened the door.

The shadow inside the room shifted as the door opened, so I expected to find a man looking at me. There was no one there. I couldn't believe it. I was staring at empty useless air and the sun was shining brightly into the room. The shadow would not budge. What the hell was making it? I slammed the door shut.

Okay, I didn't mean to slam it but right then, I was just so on edge. Even after shutting the door my hand still gripped the handle. I forced myself to let go of it at some point, just standing there frozen accomplished nothing. I slowly crept forward, wanting to continue my investigation but also hoping I didn't disturb anything. I just crept along, causing the floor to creak at one point. It sounded really loud. Someone screamed. It sounded like a man. I looked behind me, convinced that was the direction it came from. It sounded so painful. I wondered if I should call out, just to check he was okay. But that would be pointless. I'm the only living thing here, right? I shivered. Is it just me, or did the temperature just plummet?

I turned back around and carried on in the direction I was creeping. I never stopped shivering. I gripped my iron rod harder, as if it would protect me against anything. I finally got to another door and opened it. This room was a bathroom. I stepped inside for the simple reason that this room looked interesting. The toilet was still there, so was the sink, with taps that needed a polish. I doubted the plumbing was working though. There was no mirror and where the bathtub was meant to go, there was just a big space with a pipe sticking up at one end. But there was something else. Something was written in blood on the wall there. 'Alicia' Who's that? I touched the writing. It was crusty and brown, like old blood.

What was-? I looked quickly to the right, to try and find whatever I saw in the corner of my eye. But there was just nothing. Good ol' big fat nothing.

"Ray!" I shouted, purely out of frustration. I wanted to find a clue, some clue, anything that could lead to Ray's killer. The only things I'd found were the painting that has nothing to do with anything and a name written on a wall. 'Alicia' I needed more info than that. And what if that name had nothing to do with anything either? "Ray!" I shouted again. I stared right at a blank wall, challenging it almost. "You are definitely here." Oh God, I was having an argument with air in the hope that my boyfriend could hear me. "I came here so I could serve some justice. To find your killer. There are weird things happening, so I can only assume you're here. But you're ignoring me?! The least you could do is help me." I put my hand on my hip. Ray always called this my 'boss stance', it got a reaction out of him every time. But this time, nothing happened.

I sighed. I wondered if I should just give up.

"Last chance to help me Ray," I muttered. I followed my compulsion to go back to the main entrance hall. But why was I feeling like this? I still had so many rooms to check and I had still only wandered around half of one floor. I just felt this need to go to the main entrance hall. Going outside, into the sun, that would be nice. Maybe this was stupid? Maybe I was getting myself worked up and freaked out in a stupid creepy house for a mystery that's ultimately unsolvable? And maybe Ray wasn't here after all? Maybe he's already at peace and the only person with a problem was me and anyone who worked in cold cases? I suddenly imagined calling my dad and seeing his smiling face at my change of heart. And then once at home my mom would suggest playing a board game. How about Pictionary? She plays that game as frequently as possible. I smiled as I descended the stairs. I stopped,

The door was shut.

The front door was shut.


The door was shut.

What? Why's the door shut?

In absolute disbelief I slowly, so slowly, went down the stairs. I wanted to see for myself, up close. The door definitely looked shut. And I couldn't move properly. I was so stiff. The further down I got, the harder it was to move. I realised I was panting with the absolute effort, it was exhausting. When I finally reached the bottom I...I felt so lightheaded. I couldn't focus properly. The door doubled and swayed. I heard my rod fall on the floor as I collapsed. I couldn't fight it anymore. I just panted and panted as I stared tiredly at that stone angel, staring at me like I was doomed.
© Ruth Hüneke 2009