Chapter 4

We went into the room and it really was a study. I was honestly surprised. I mean, very little furniture was left, just a desk and some shelves, but it was enough to know we were in the right room.

"Nice guess," I complimented.

He just looked sheepish. "Heh, one of my few strengths." He glanced around. "Whoever used to live here must have left in a hurry." He opened the top drawer and there was a lot of paper inside. "How did you meet your boyfriend? If you don't mind me asking?"

I didn't expect that question, but Luke had a way of just asking things out of the blue, so I went with it and was happy to just not have silence.

"We met on a ghost tour," I explained as I walked over to the set of shelves. "I didn't honestly think we'd see any ghosts, but a friend really wanted to go on it and dragged me along. That was Ray's story too, except you have to replace 'friend' with 'brother'."

Luke laughed. Some of the paper he'd found were actually old photos. "I'm glad I don't have a younger brother, it means I never go on silly trips."

"Ray doesn't either," I replied honestly. All I could see on the shelves were some folders, so I opened one up. A lot of the sheets were just blank.

"An older brother wanted to go on a ghost tour?" he sounded really surprised.

"Yup," I murmured.

"Okay." His confusion made me laugh. "You got any older siblings? Younger even?"

"I have an older sister, at college." I picked up a different folder. "You?"

"An older sister who works." We just worked in ruffling silence. The sound of sorting paper was enough to distract me. The folder I was sorting through had just a bunch of accounting papers with facts and figures on them, how boring.

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Luke asked.

I stopped what I was doing to think about my answer. I opened another folder and found more blank paper. "I don't not believe in them. But I just have no idea what they could possibly look like." I forced myself not to think about the person in my dream.

"Well they're real you know."

"Really? You don't seem to take the ghost tours seriously."

"That's because they only ever explain the legends, rumours and gossip of well known ghosts and tragic stories. If anyone ever expects to find a ghost, they won't find one on a ghost tour. I've had to trap poltergeists and dispel restless spirits. I do that as a Pagan."

Woah, I really didn't see that coming. "You're a Pagan?"

"Yeah." He seemed embarrassed again. "I hope that doesn't bother you."

"No. I just never knew we had any in our town." I was still staring at him.

"Trust me, there aren't enough to make a Coven."

"How many do you need?"

"4? 5? I'm not sure what the minimum number should be. We moved here about 3 years ago, soon after my sister graduated High School. My parents wanted to form a new Coven, but they died in a car accident. My sister has had to work a lot since then, just to keep our house and afford the everyday stuff."

I stared at him in shock. I couldn't imagine my sister working more than 20 hours in a week (she loves to just sit around reading magazines) and I definitely couldn't imagine my parents gone. "I'm sorry," I said quietly.

He looked surprised. "Don't be, it's not your fault. I don't see my sister as much as I would like to and maybe I can't buy the latest video game or whatever, but it's okay. I usually just read books in the local library when I'm bored, it's what it's there for."

By this time I had looked through every folder. I just wasn't getting anywhere. I let out a huff.

"I guess that means you haven't found anything, then?" he asked me without stopping his sorting and inspecting.

"No, I haven't." I walked over to the windows in thought.

Luke must have seen me because he then asked: "What are you doing?"

"I'm walking over to these windows," I answered. "I'm wondering if they're breakable."

"But I thought you said we're trapped."

"We are. But there's always the joke that no one ever tries smashing the window with a chair."

"We don't have any chairs, not in this room anyway."

I laughed. "It's the principle of the thing." I readied my iron rod, then hit a window as hard as I could. Nothing, not even a scratch. I hit it again. Still nothing. I felt like I was hitting a stone wall.

"Why don't you try that brick down there? To your right?" Luke suggested.

I found the brick and left the iron rod on the ground. It wasn't a full brick, just a part of one that had somehow fallen out of the wall. It was really heavy.

"You okay with that?"

I just grunted. I lifted the brick as high as my shoulder, then shoved it as hard as possible against the window. I somehow got ricocheted back and had to lean over, then crouch, to stop myself dropping the brick and hurting myself. The sudden change of positions wasn't exactly smooth; I could feel an overstretched muscle start complaining.

"You okay? What happened?" He hurried towards me.

I left the brick where it was and stood up. "Didn't you see? The glass bounced. The glass is just one layer and really old, but it bounced. I can't decide what's weirder: bouncing glass or doors that close themselves while phasing through doorstops."

Neither of us moved or said anything. It got on my nerves pretty fast.

"I don't think searching through a pile of paper in this room is gonna turn up anything."

"But they'll likely give us clues about the last owners of this house," argued Luke.

I sighed. "I doubt the mystery trapping us here has anything to do with the last owners."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Well, I came here wanting to find out what happened to Ray. I got a weird vibe from this place, now I'm trapped..." At this point I realised how truly weak my argument was. I shivered. What was it about haunted houses and cold temperatures?

"It's not that I don't believe you," he said easily, "but we don't have any other leads and if what you're saying is true, we don't even know what to look for."

I thought about this. I then realised why I thought something was missing when I first met Luke: I never found out why he was even here.

"How did you get in here?" I asked. "I mean, why? Why are you even in this house?"

He reddened while scowling slightly. "Stupid really. I just saw this place and thought how awesome it looked. So like the moron I am I came in here. I don't even have anything to cast a spell with, if I had I could've opened that door and we'd both be outta here. Of course, if you're here to find out about your boyfriend you probably wouldn't leave."

I smiled. He was right, except I wasn't too sure. If the door had opened right then, I would've probably left. The figure in my dream, the shadow without the source; I knew I'd feel better being with someone to face those things and whatever else I might find.

Luke looked back at the desk while scratching his left shoulder in thought. He always seemed to be in that position. "You know, if you don't feel like going through any more paper, you could always go off on your own to search."

I instantly felt more nervous. Nope, I definitely wanted to stay. Or him to come with me, I honestly wanted that to happen. "I dunno. In horror movies, the kids that split up always get killed."

He looked at me like I had misspelled the word 'fish'. "Ghosts don't work that way. You'll be fine."

He went back to what he was doing and I picked up my iron rod. I didn't move at first. But then I slowly exited the room, telling myself over and over again that whatever I could possibly see could never even touch me, let alone hurt me.

I walked slowly along the ground floor. The rooms were bigger, so there were less doors to open. It was just so quiet. Every so often I could hear the quiet rustle of paper, no doubt Luke's doing. I wished I could hear it louder and more often. Eventually I opened a door and walked through. This room was long, I could just imagine a long banquet table right in the middle. There was nothing here, but I was shivering. And tense. Could there have been a clue? I wasn't sure. I just remember finding something interesting about a wall and moving closer to it so I could see. What was I doing? I should have run out of there, something about that room just wasn't right. What was that shape? It was a face. It was in pain. I just stood there, watching it wrythe. Was it screaming? Crying? Why would it do that? It kept changing and moving and coming towards me.

I barely avoided its out-stretched hand. I stumbled back stiffly. Oh God it was horrible! This thing was trying to come through the wall. I just remember it covered in blood and this guy was somehow half-phased through the wall. He tried to scream. I backed away. I couldn't turn away, but I couldn't stay either. I somehow backed into a wall. had now managed to claw his way to the floor, but his waist still wasn't free. I placed my hand against the wall and felt old metal.

I faced the wall. There was no metal. How could I have felt metal? But I could see the door. I was just so shaken I walked out like a robot and went all the way back to the study. I don't remember seeing anything else but I thought I could hear low agonising screaming. It didn't stop 'til Luke spoke to me.

"Tanya? Tanya, what happened? What did you see?"

"You're right in front of me," I murmured.

"Uh, yeah?" He was now really worried.

I loosened my hold on the iron rod. I held it so tight that my hand was starting to hurt. "I uh..." I swallowed. "I saw something coming outta the wall. It was horrible. It was male but it was deformed and covered in blood. And its scream was really low and loud-didn't you hear it?" I was begging that he'd heard something.

"No, I honestly didn't hear anything. It was just silent and then you walked back in, completely spooked."

"I need some water," I suddenly said. I dropped down to the floor and opened my backpack to get to the water like it was my only life support, which was endangered.

"Is it still there? Maybe I should go look?"

I gulped the water quickly. "Probably won't be," I moaned. "It's always like that in horror stories, one person sees something and the other one doesn't." I slowly packed the water back in and zipped up my backpack. "You found anything useful?"

"Not really. Most of the stuff's to do with bank accounts, wills and a couple of letters. Plus photos. And then blank paper. Maybe this really is a dead-end? Maybe you're right? We can't leave here without finding out your boyfriend's killer."

I stood back up. I was still shivering. Geez, what was it about old houses and low temperatures? "Well at least you're now seeing things my way. We still don't have any leads though."
© Ruth Hüneke 2009