Chapter 1: Bridges of light
All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses - Haunted Houses by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dragging your overnight suitcase behind you, a weekend bag slung over your shoulder as well as a cat carrier in hand, from which curious mewls were coming from, you stepped through the door to your new home You were already cataloguing the huge list of things that needed to be done inside the place as you set your bags on the floor.
Obviously it had been abandoned by the previous owner by the state that it had been left in. There were cobwebs all around the ceiling, and clinging to the sparse furniture. You hoped the hot water ran from taps you were sure would leak stagnant rusted brown water for the first half hour of being turned on.
Sunbeams were lazy bridges of light that filtered lazily through windows that had a frosting to them as well as a good layer of dirt and dust on both sides. You gave a small hum of appreciation at the look of the floorboards, nice and even with a finish that would come up lovely once the dirt has been swept away.
There was a feeling in the room, you’d put it down to excitement if you didn’t have that strange feeling of electricity and danger dancing along the skin of your arms that set your hair standing. By the sounds coming from the carrier you assumed Iris was having the same impressions as you. You set the carrier down and opened the door, and out she strutted as if she already owned the place. She was beautiful, pure black with striking blue eyes which stood out when you first met her, and so you’d given her the name Iris.
“This could be great Iris, all this space...” You knew the location wasn’t the best place, but you could set up a good size studio in the downstairs open area, even sell art from here. You only hoped the neighbours were friendly, and weren’t the main reason for the marked down price. The estate agent would have had to have said if there were noise problems, right?
The desk that was left behind by the previous owner looked sturdy,made of thick wood, with gouges and nicks spread across, it was full of character so it could stay for sure. There were odd pieces spread across the room, and the artist in you couldn’t wait to have a nosey, though the sensible side was disgusted by the layers of dust and spiderwebs.
“No, it will be great actually. Maybe I should get rid of the sign outside first, so no one mistakes it for the old place.” You nodded to yourself and hoped the previous owner had left a set of ladders behind.
“I wonder what kind of a shop Devil May Cry used to be.”
I hope that ending was a surprise! So I’ve never written anything without a full plot in mind, and though I have some idea what this could be about it’s completely without a full form which is quite fun? Let me know what you think!
Chapter 2: Trespasser
“In your emptying house, others
roll up rugs, pack books,
drink coffee at your antique table,
and listen to messages left
on a machine haunted“
The Answering Machine - Linda Pastan
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When it snows, and a thick blanket of white covers the ground, and parked cars, and rooftops, and weighs down the branches of dark green trees, there’s a silence like no other. It’s as though the world is covered in a downy duvet, silent and sleeping.
The silence in your new home, you found, was similar but not the same. This was a smothering blanket, the air was still and dust particles hung in the air in shafts of light as though time stood still.
And then you would breathe, and there would be sound that killed the silence, and time would step on with dust swaying and dancing to the ground.
And there was a lot of dust. You were cleaning up a storm.
Iris had taken refuge on one of the steps of the sturdy wooden stairs to look down on you as you cleaned,
You liked the place, sort of. You and your new home would have to mould around each other that was for sure. The first hour you had spent there was making sure that the taps ran clear, and the toilet flushed.
As you walked around, checking in rooms to find which one you preferred to be your bedroom, you opened the door to one of the front facing rooms and the sensation hit you like a freight train.
You shouldn’t be here.
This room belonged to Someone.
The bedsheets were mussed, as though slept in and rolled out of that morning. The closet door was open just an inch, the sleeve of a black shirt caught in the door. There was a pair of jogging bottoms half on and half off the bed, as though they’d been discarded in a rushed morning routine.
You’d think someone had left the room this morning if it weren’t for the layer of dust.
But the smell, the smell of the room said nothing of unopened windows and the passing of time: No stale stench hung in the air. Masculine was the only way you could describe it, musky in a pleasant way, clean enough but a sweetness that was maybe sandalwood. It got more intense in an instant.
An odd feeling wrapped around your heart like vines slowly twisting and ensnaring, you felt like a trespasser, about to be caught. Shamed and tossed out.
You shut the door. The tension left your body immediately and you breathed a breath you hadn’t realised you’d been holding.
You decided to clean that room last, and tackled the main area downstairs first. A base of operations.
“I hope this still works, or maybe I could get someone in to fix it, these colours are gorgeous.” You ran a damp cloth over the smooth arch of the jukebox in the corner. There were still multiple vinyls inside waiting to be played and it only added more to the mystery of what kind of place Devil May Cry was and where the owner went in such a rush... Unless they’d died?
A creak on the stair followed by a yowl from your cat had you turning around quickly with a gasp.
But there was no one there.
Iris bounded down the stairs and in to the kitchen just off the main room and your heart pounded in your chest as you were left alone in a room that didn’t feel empty save for you.
The stairs wouldn’t creak under Iris’ weight, but... maybe they did.
You forced a breath out and shook your head, turning to continue cleaning the jukebox though everything inside of you screamed not to turn your back on the stairs. The old turnstile phone on the desk started to ring. You frowned, not realising the phone was still active, ignoring the trepidation that filled you at the sound, and adding it to the list of many things you would have to do.
You wiped your hands on your old tshirt you’d worn specifically for moving day, and picked up the handset.
“Hello?” It was a bad signal, a mix of static and what sounded like howling wind in the background, “hello?”
You had pulled the phone away from your ear to hang up when you heard it. The sound of someone struggling, breath hitching, and not in a lewd way, as they tried to speak. They sounded in pain. You listened silently, feeling your face pale until finally you opened your mouth (to say what you didn’t even know). At your breath the phone cut to dial tone, and you felt relief flow through your veins and warmth finally settle on skin you hadn’t realised was chilled.
It would be later on, when you got around to cleaning the desk with locked drawers that you realised that the phone wasn’t plugged in at all.
You did your best to convince yourself that you’d unplugged it at some point.
You didn’t do very well
Dante is coming soon, I promise. I do hate having so much descriptive text and little to no dialogue, but a good haunting to me is full of suspenseful silence.
Thank you for the kudos and review on the first chap
Chapter 3: Antigonish
"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!"
Antigonish - William Hughes Mearns
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Night had come quickly, after that phone call. You’d been happy to find that the majority of the lights in your new place worked. The fan on the ceiling spun slowly and clicked every other rotation for some reason. It was nice to have a sound in the silence, and it was silent even outside because surprisingly this was a quiet neighbourhood. The occasional car passed by, low rumbling reaching you before the car did, headlights sending shadows gliding across the back wall.
The juke box did work.
It was quiet, and had a tinniness to it that told you the speakers weren’t quite connected but you could work with that, unafraid to dig in and fiddle with the workings of it youself.
As you’d taken the dust off with a rag you’d ignored the feeling of thickness in the air that had persisted after the creaking step which scared Iris away and in to the kitchen where she meowed quite loudly for a time.
You were grateful for her noise, and when the jukebox played its quiet music it helped clean away the oppressive air of the place.
The dirty water in the bucket sloshed as you threw the dirty rag in, it was browned and the froth of cleaning product had faded away. You noticed a door under the staircase and made a beeline for it, hoping there were more cleaning supplies you could use inside. Swinging the door open, expecting a small closet, you were surprised to find cold, cold air breezed out and around you, pulling stray threads of your hair in towards the dark abyss of the basement. It felt open, like a void, cavernous almost.
You pulled out your phone, switching the flashlight on and swept it across the darkness, noting the stairs descending downward and the light switch to the left of the door frame. An experimental flick back and forth lit no lights down there.
“And I won’t be dealing with you for a while.”
You swung the door shut, the cold wind pulling it shut the rest of the way, resulting in a louder click than you intended.
Leaving your cleaning supplies downstairs you picked up your weekend bag, and slung it over your shoulder to head up stairs to sort out your bed for the evening.
There was a feeling again. That feeling of being watched, the one that crept along the back of your neck, rising hairs and setting skin to goosebumps. Every instinct inside of you told you someone was on the stairs, looking down on you from the second floor. You heart raced as you braced a foot on the bottom step and pushed yourself up, hand holding firm to the railing.
You step back resolve melting as you look up in to the darkness of upstairs and feel that eyes are looking back at you.
There’s no shame in taking the couch for the night, it is in the cleanest part of the house after all, and you don’t want to spend the next hour fussing and cleaning before bed.
So, instead, you ready for bed and settle on the worn cushions of the sofa and find it’s actually quite comfortable. The soft pads of Iris’ feet come from the kitchen and she jumps up on to your lap, the thin grey sheet you’d pulled out of your bag would be warm enough for the tepid summer nights the city was experiencing.. At least you knew the basement would be a cool retreat when summer heat really kicked in.
After an hour of tapping away on your phone you curl up on your side to sleep, facing the open room, and the purring coming from your lap is the white noise you need that pushes you finally in to a deep sleep.
You’re dreaming. You know that for sure as you lay with detachment and that soft warm comfort of sleep still fogs you. You don’t move though your eyes wander around the room. It’s darker now, as though there are no streetlights. The room is lit by the moon, cold and white-blue.
The white stencils of light from the tall windows stretch across the wooden floor all the way to the desk where a figure sits.
He’s watching you.
You can’t see his eyes but you feel his gaze on you, and you’re sure he knows you’re watching him too.
You’re not scared.
His booted feet are on the desk, body angled towards you, His features aren’t the clearest but you can easily see he has white hair, snow-like in the moon light.
He isn’t old though. His form is tall and shoulders are broad, his eyes glitter in the dark and they hold no malice. They just watch, silently.
The creak of a door opening sounds from behind you and you turn in time to see the basement door slowly swing open. The air in the room leeches out and turns cold as the darkness eats away at the warmth. You breathe out a shuddering breath that turns to vapour, your cheeks and nose chill quickly.
You realise you’ve stood, feet taking you towards the rectangle of pitch black without you even realising.
There’s a huff from behind you and a heavy hand lands on your shoulder, almost blazing hot in the cold. He passes in front of you, his broad back blocking your view of the basement, and he looks over his shoulder at you. His eyes are blue, like arctic ice, though they’re not cold at all. There’s a warmth and sadness in them all at once, and it makes you feel lonely for some reason.
“Probably best you stay out of there, babe.” Oh god his voice is smooth and deep and you hope you remember it when you wake up. There’s a noise from the basement, one that sounds like a wounded and angered creature, you peek around the man to see what it is when he grabs you around the waist and pulls you to his chest. “I don’t think you’re ready for the show yet.”
A glint catches your eye and he pulls out a gun from beneath his jacket. Your heart races as his arm extends and you hear the sound of wood being scratched under large nails that are scrambling for purchase.
The sound of a gunshot sets you upright with a bolt. The room is lit with early morning sunlight that falls on to the desk the white haired man had sat at.
You’re pretty sure you had left the chair tucked under the desk, so why isn’t it now?
Often your dreams are forgotten in the steam of your first cup of tea of the day, replaced with only impressions of feelings and abstract thoughts.
Not this one. You cradle the now empty and cold mug as you sit at the desk, eyes on the basement door. You can still feel the press of his arm against your back as he held you against his chest to stop you from seeing whatever had clawed its way up from below.
You’re not one to have a solid opinion on these sorts of things. For every nay sayer of ghosts and the supernatural there’s always someone to insist they had an encounter of some kind. You go to sip at tea, lost in thought and not realising it’s empty until the cold of the mug touches your lips. You don’t want to admit to yourself the dream left you spooked, and you’re a little intimidated by the black hole that is the basement and the thought of whatever it was that was down there. Not to mention the strange feelings this place gives you, its rooms with the sensation of being watched and of intruding.
You force yourself to have a normal day, ignoring the feelings of being watched, chalking the goosebumps you get down to the breeze that blows through the opened windows which you secretly hope will blow cobwebs and spirits alike away. The moving van comes with the small amount of furniture you had from your old apartment and you set your bed up in one of the back bedrooms, completely ignoring the front bedroom each time you pass it and the primal feeling that someone is behind the door, pacing and waiting.
Eventually the day does become normal: Iris gets out of the house, and you have to coax her back in with biccies. You chug orange juice thirstily as sweat darkens your clothes, nearly choking when you over tip the carton and it spills past your lips. Murmuring to yourself as you’re picking off the olives that were on the pizza you ordered from the local place that had a leaflet tacked up in the kitchen.
A normal day with a nice breeze that blows away the lingering feelings of fear from the dream last night, and the fear of the basement. The sun is starting to set when you grab the large flashlight you own from one of the boxes you’d put in the kitchen, opening the basement door and stepping through with nonchalance. You prop open the door, hoping extra light comes in and lights the dark but only your sweeping beam of light touches the basement, and the darkness eats the white light quickly.
There’s something on the floor, as you tenuously make your way down creaking wooden steps. The air smells strange, lukewarm and musty and of mould. The bannister under your hand is rough and chipped in places, you hiss as a splinter catches in your hand, and you cradle it to your chest.
The light shines on the dark floor strangely and when you put your foot on what appears to be the last step you swear loudly when it splashes in to still and stagnant water that flows over the sides of your shoe and around your ankle.
“Are you kidding me?” Ripples flow from where your foot had splashed haphazardly in to the dark water, white light reflected back on small rolls of black smooth liquid that make lapping noises here and there against filing cabinets that you can see against the walls.
“Are you down there Miss?”
You turn with a start, before you recognise the voice of one of the movers from earlier in the day. “Uh, yea just a sec.” You make your way up the steps and when you come out in to the light the mover looks you up and down, noting your soaked leg and squelching shoe.
“Having problems?” You’re grateful that, when you explain to him that the basement is flooded, he takes a quick look, with a flashlight he takes from the pocket of his high-vis jacket and returns back up the stairs quickly.
“Looks like this has been rising for a little while. See how there’s no markings on the wall? If it had been sat there for a while it would have gone down a little and left markings, but this looks like it’s rising bit by bit. You’ll want to get someone to have a look at this, and soon.”
You nod and bite your lip, while you’d known this place was a little fixer-upper, having seen the photos only on the bidding site, you’d not anticipated the auctioneers leaving this bit of information out of the listing.
“Thanks for looking, that’s good to know, I’ll call someone as soon as I can.”
“Best to sort these things before they become real problems, can end up a right devil to fix a burst pipe if it’s left too long. Probably under the cement and seeping up through a gap in the concrete.” Then there was a moment of awkward silence where he looked at you expectantly and you looked at him expectantly. “So where’s the keys?”
“You sent a text saying someone had left some keys behind and something about a show” You pat your jean pockets looking for your phone before remembering you’d left it on the desk at one point. The mover is watching you with an eyebrow raised.
“Oh! Right, I meant to send those to someone else! ” You lied through your teeth, glad that the redness on your cheeks would be mistook as embarrassment, “I’m so sorry you came back out.”
He’s a genuinely nice guy, and says it’s no problem since they’d stopped at a nice diner nearby after leaving yours.
As soon as he’s gone you dart over to your phone and pull up the text messages.
(Hey can you come back? You’ve left some keys here)>
(I told you you weren’t ready for the show babe)>
<(Thanks for letting me know, on our way)
You take a deep breath and accept that feeling of being watched never really went away throughout the day, that there’s something about this house, and that there’s something about that blue eyed man from your dream.
And you’re going to find out what it is.
Dante is here finally! And reader is talking to a human rather than to herself/the cat!
So I post these without going back over them, I try and catch errors as I go but if I went back and checked these would never get posted because I would tweak everything and second guess it too, I’m trying to let the plot happen. If you see any errors or anything please let me know. Also I don’t know shit about plumbing and flooding basements.
Chapter 4: Water Of The Covenant
My spectre around me night and day
Like a wild beast guards my way.
My emanation far within
Weeps incessantly for my sin.
My Spectre Around Me by William Blake
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the short remainder of the day you avoid the downstairs main room. After checking the messages on your phone you had roughly pushed the chair under the desk with a huff, “I refuse to be scared and spooked in my own home.” The words said aloud confirm really how much you believe you’re not alone.
Whenever you pass by the basement door to take something upstairs or bring something through to the kitchen your eyes dart to the door in anticipation and the temptation to go down there just to prove to yourself this irrational fear is just that: Irrational.
There is no ghost, there is no presence, and there is nothing wrong with the basement aside from it being too wet.
Your bed is upstairs, as are your belongings, as well as your cat, Iris, since that’s where your bed is. You push up the stairs leaving the room behind you in darkness, breaking in to a rush part way up at the feeling of something about to grab your feet from within the darkness: That same childhood fear now rearing its head in the wake of the strange happenings.
Turning at the top of the yellow lit stairs you stop and look down in to the darkness, the stairs seeming to descend eternally since there’s no end of them visible.
Stare in to the void, and the void stares back.
There’s that feeling of being watched again. Your hand tightens on the banister as you watch silently, simultaneously daring the darkness to move while pleading that it doesn’t. A car drives by outside, the lights scattering squares of yellowed light across the floor through the windows, and there’s nothing down there but dust long-settled for the day.
Iris chirps from your chosen bedroom, the largest room which sits across from the dreaded front bedroom, the bedroom that you now realise you’ve been calling “His” in your mind.
Looking at the shut door you wait a moment, listening, and hear nothing. You put a hand on the door handle, the metal surprisingly cold under your skin considering the warmth of the night. You don’t know what you expect to happen, but nothing does.
Turing off the corridor light you hurry in to your bedroom and feel a piece of your old home has forced itself in to this place, jammed in like a puzzle piece in the wrong section but it still fits in to place somehow.
Books with bent edges and pages yellowed with age and love sit on a bookshelf in a corner, your amber light softly glowing next to the bed to help with sleep triggers your mind to start to ready for bed. Your pyjamas are stuffed partly under one of the multiple pillows on your bed with bedsheets that are soft and comforting spread across the bed. Iris sits on top of the pyjamas, and you gently pull them out from under her as you give her scratches on top of her little head.
Idly you tap away on your phone before bed, every now and then switching from social media to quickly search about basement flooding (call a plumber), possible dream meanings from last night (you’re repressing emotions), and feeling like you’re being watched in an empty home (this one came back with a variety of answers so you gave up quickly when you realised there was no simple solution).
The comforting smell of your sheets is relaxing, and it’s as though you’re back in your old apartment and there’s nothing strange going on except the constant smell of weed coming from the apartment next door along with the sounds of Kitchen Nightmares (also constant).
You’re lulled further in to sleep, barely conscious now, by the sounds of the ticking clock on your nightstand, the light breaths of Iris at the bottom of the bed, and the surprisingly comforting sound of the house settling, wood creaking in to place after a warm day that shifts to a cooler night.
A sudden harsh noise jolts you out of the darkness of your mind and in to the darkness of your closed eyes.
You can’t open your eyes.
Something woke you.
The low moaning hiss of Iris. And it continues on as wood creaks distantly.
Still your eyes won’t open, you can’t move at all, all you can do is listen and feel the room get colder as the temperature drops and drops. Your own heartbeat can’t cover the sound of tapping, dull and heavy, of something coming up the stairs. Something that sounds like it has thick claws, something that you dreamed of last night.
You swallow, your breaths coming fast and short through your nose, your jaws sealed shut by the paralysis that claimed your body from you. Iris’ hiss is near constant now, rising in pitch and you feel her shifting until she’s small on your lap. She’s scared.
By god, so are you.
Whatever It is, is upstairs now, only 10 feet away from your bedroom. There are breaths that sound like a death rattle, rumbling in a chest that hasn’t been used in years.
Wetness touches against your ears and you don’t care that you’re crying and the tears are rolling down the side of your face. Willing your body to move doesn’t work, it’s like someone cut you off from everything that you are besides a consciousness, and you feel so vulnerable and scared that your breath hitches as you start to cry in earnest.
There’s the sound of a click of a door, but not yours.
The sound of steps, booted feet you will clearly imagine in the morning but not now as you’re too wrapped up in absolute terror, step out of the room, past your doors to meet the thing that had come from the basement.
Thuds rock your wall, trinkets rattle and frames clatter back, as something connects over and over. Something being hit, the sound of the creature growling and spluttering wetly makes you sure to hope it’s losing the fight. It continues for what feels like forever until silence falls again.
You still can’t move, and you’re still crying, The tears are warm on skin that had cooled in the frigid air.
The door to your bedroom creaks open as your breathing picks up, fear filling you to the brim and overflowing as you’re still trapped inside yourself and in the dark.
“Breathe. Just breathe.” His footsteps approach you from the door and you think you can hear something along the lines of concern. Your arms lay limply at your sides and you feel strange as his warm form sits on your bed.
The bed doesn’t dip at all.
It should do, because you remember him as being built.
“Slowly, slower, just breathe.” He seems to not know what do do as you feel him fidget for a moment, before taking your hand in his. He gives a squeeze and you can’t squeeze back but it reassures you.
“That’s it, like that.” A thumb, rough and worn rubs along the back of your hand, “You’re doing great, babe. Try opening your eyes for me.”
The morning sunlight fills your vision, the room orange in the rising sun. You feel like a wreck.
You know what sleep paralysis is. You know it conjures demons. The crust Iines on your face are a testament to the tears you’d cried, so at least that was real. You sit up and look towards your open bedroom door, and across from it, bathed in the same orange light of the morning, is His room with its door wide open.
You can only sit and cry at that.
Getting out of the house is good for you. With the front door locked shut you felt as though the place was its own little bubble of strangeness. Pulling away from the curb in your car with inane radio ads on, you feel everything is normal. There’s no pushing it to the back of your mind though. Distance helps put your thoughts in to perspective though and you mediate as you go about your necessary shopping and chores.
Of all the cities you’ve lived in this one is your favourite. The stores are niche, not chain stores like the capitol where you’d lived for a good chunk of time. There are nick-nack shops, antique stores, and psychic reading’s available next to laundrettes, corner shops, and pharmacies.
People pass by in no hurry due to the climbing heat of the midday sun, the iced tea you’d bought as you went from shop to shop cools with the satisfying taste of sweet peach and bitter leaves. You idle outside the pharmacy, toying with the idea of sleeping tablets.
The harsh sun and warmth of the day had chased away lingering dreams and monsters and icy blue eyes and you felt silly for crying that morning. Silly for considering there was a puzzle in all the mess to solve when it was just stress from moving and being in a new place.
Side eyeing the illustrated sign advertising palm readings, tarot cards, and clairvoyance you down the rest of the drink, stepping in to the air conditioned pharmacy and buying sleeping tablets, enough for a week.
That night you take the small chalky white pill with water, and sleep peacefully and unbothered.
A week of peace is exactly what you need to get on with moving in. The priority of setting up your downstairs studio to work on paintings in one corner and have a living area in the rest takes up a good half of the week. The kithcen takes up the rest, grime cleaned away and the old oven sparkling clean thanks to a litany of chemical attacks on it that sent you coughing and spluttering outside for air.
There will be time, you think, to address Hi- The front room... And the basement.
In all the chaos of fixing up the house to be liveable you forgot about the sleeping tablets running out, and when you go to take one and find none left you feel confident you don’t need any.
The feeling of being watched had ebbed away with every good night of sleep, fear of closing your eyes at day’s end had been left in the past after the third night of peaceful slumber.
The small air conditioner you had dripped methodically as you laid in bed and it followed you in to your dream.
The drip drip drip echoed in the strange world you had woken up in. It was your own house but silent save for the sound of water drip drip dripping as though you were in a damp cave. Sitting up in bed you see water glistening on the floor of your bedroom. It doesn’t alarm you as you’re wrapped up in that disconnected feeling that goes hand in hand with most dreams.
The room is quite pretty, bathed in the blue white reflections of light from the water. The small rug you have at the side of your bed floats and bobs up and down beside your legs as you slip your bare feet in to the cold water. It reaches mid shin and though the water is dark you can still see your feet on the floorboards, warped by the lapping of the water.
You walk out of your bedroom, feet pulling through the water with muted but still echoing splashing sounds.
His door is closed, and water continues along the hallway right to the stairs where there’s the sound of running water. At the top you look down and lose yourself in a Escher like moment as the water runs both up and down the wooden steps and over the side. The pull and push of the water tickles your toes as you descend. A canvas floats by, soaked and darkened by the inky water, you absently push it away when it knocks at your knee. While the room is dark, like the water, you can still see clearly, enough to see the door of the basement swaying in the to-and-fro of the water lapping against it.
Wading through the water is easy and you go slowly down the basement stairs in to the seeable darkness, pushed and pulled along by the flowing water along the stairs. The air tastes odd on your tongue, cold and thick like mausoleum air. you think.
He’s there in the centre of the room. On the last step you find the basement is only flooded to the ankles still and you tread lightly over to his form.
It’s like he’s sleeping. his red coat floats a little, though bound by his form as he lies on his back. The water kisses at the hollow of his cheeks, pale and deathly in your night vision, his eyes closed to the quiet of the world and you find you miss sight of his pale blue eyes after a week of dreamless sleep.
You place a hand on his chest, too intimate if he were awake but he sleeps on, oblivious to you. This close it’s easy to see the line of his nose, smooth and thin, the same as his jaw. Your other hand soothes across his forehead, moving ice-white hair from in front of his eyes to find lashes surprisingly dark. He’s not just handsome, you think, he’s pretty too. But where ever you touch there is a worrying frigidity to his skin.
“You’re cold.” The words don’t echo, too real in this space, they fall heavy like weights and die when spoken. Where you hand rests on his chest you can feel it seeping away at your warmth, which the water hadn’t touched even with its fresh chill. “You need to be warm.”
You curl against his side slowly, water sloshing gently as you move, between his arm and chest, hand splayed over his heart where you feel chill creep up your arm. “You’ll be ok,” you sigh, “I won’t leave you alone again... You’ll be ok,” you don’t know why you say the words but they slip out in to the air softly.
The dripping and flowing water is muted in the cotton-air of the basement. Water sways against your body, rocking it gently as you fall out of the dream and in to darkness. The last thing that stays with you is the chest under your hand, rising and falling, slow and shallow.
You wake the next morning feeling sickly and flushed with some sort of virus. You blame the damp that lingers on your skin and clothes on the fever you must have had in the night.
I have a good idea of where this is going, just not the hows but I do know most of the why’s. I hope it’s not too abstract, and I know it’s not dialogue driven at all which is difficult because dialogue is what I like in fics. I didn’t feel like a super chatty ghost would work for a creepy haunting.
Thanks for all the kudos and reviews. I hope you enjoyed it and any kudos and reviews are really appreciated.
Chapter 5: Bedroom Crimes
Tell now, my sweet
Am I bleeding on the sheets?
Guilty of a crime
Committed in my sleep?
Sonata Sentimental 2 by Oren Lavie (I listened to this heavily for this chapter)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The morning is a struggle, pulling yourself in to the shower, heavy step by heavy step, and washing away last night under steaming hot water that fogs the small bathroom takes time.
Initially in the kitchen you just have some juice, sipping experimentally at it expecting a surge of nausea that goes hand in hand with sickness. Instead you guzzle it down, suddenly thirsty, and realise you’re ravenous. Some clinking in the kitchen later and toast pops up from the toaster, done to perfection, just as you’re finishing a yogurt you’d pulled from the fridge. Golden yellow buttered toast disappears quickly and you finish with a piece of fruit, and tiredness takes over again.
Bed calls, Iris not having moved from the foot of the bed where a sunbeam slices across the sheets. You fall down in to it easily, comfort wrapping around you as you happily doze in and out in the soft morning.
The door creaks.
The bed sheets rustle.
Breath fans across the back of your neck as an arm winds around your waist, pulling your body closer to theirs.
“You're so warm.” His voice rumbles against your ear and you smile and hum. His nose nudges against your ear as you unfold from your curled position and turn around in his hold, bedsheets rustling quietly.
Your wake for a moment, and you’re alone. Eyes slipping closed again you feel him there, cooled skin against yours, your legs tangled like comfortable lovers as your hand rests against his stomach.
“Something about you..." A hand slides under your pyjama top and on to the warm skin of your back, you shiver at his chilled touch as he leans in closer to you, he hums as his hand slowly meanders up and down your back. You can hear how tired he is in the softness of his voice.
Your hand trails up his stomach to his chest, there’s a different feel to his clothes there, sticky wetness. Your hand trails further up still and it gets wetter, and you realise there’s a scent, heavy and metallic. Your eyes slip open as you bring your fingertips closer to your face. He’s watching you as you frown at the sight of blood covering your fingers.
Over his heart you can see the glistening of wetness on his black shirt, a telltale sign of more blood flowing from a hidden wound. It pours steadily, and seeps on to the sheets thickly.
“I don't understand.” You look up at him, and realise how tired he looks, eyes dark with circles of shadow. He leans close to you slowly, as though he's drawn to you without realizing, and lips as soft as they look caress yours. You can't help but press against him, wound forgotten in the moment, and kiss back. His hand sneaks around to the back of your head, tangling in bed hair as he pulls you closer to deepen the kiss.
Deceptive against the stillness of the room the kiss is consuming, he’s like a man starved as his other hand presses against the small of your back pulling you in, squeezing you tightly like you’re a lifeline he can’t lose in a storm he can’t face.
You find yourself getting lightheaded, your hand pushing against his wet chest to break away for a moment. He continues on. The sensation of falling while not moving at all sends you dizzy as you fade away in to darkness, a murmured “’m sorry” pressed against your lips as he lets up too late.
You wake feeling rough, no better than when you went for the nap in the first place.
The sun hangs heavy in the sky, most of the day nearly gone but luckily the pharmacy is still open when you arrive. The myriad of cold and flu medicine stares at you from the shelf, and you're in a bit of a daze as you look at them tiredly wondering which will make you feel less like you're about to fall asleep where you stand. Settling for the one with caffeine in it you check out and step out in to the muggy heat of another typical summer day. You bask in the warmth and sunlight for a moment, the ache and cold in your bones letting up for a moment.
An eye stares at you from the window of the brownstone building next door, large and illustrated on sun-yellowed paper.
CLAIRVOYANCY - TAROT - PALMISTRY
Your future told!
A couple of weeks ago you would have scoffed at yourself, instead you stare up at the building and wonder if maybe there are answers you need here that you won't find anywhere online or in a pharmacy
The small sign in the window says it’s open, it sways rhythmically, almost wiggling as it tempts you.
“It’ll be an experience” you say out loud to yourself as you go up the steps and hesitate at the door before going in. A bell rings and you hear a distant “coming” as you stand in a very brown hallway. The floors are a shining deep brown wood, as are the shelves with various books on the occult lining them. Interspersed are strange objects and carved candles. The floor creaks under your feet and the ticking of a clock in another room makes for a more intense silence than if there were no sound at all.
On a shelf, eye level, you see a typical crystal ball, and you bite back a scoff as you move closer to look at the books. Your reflection moves in the ball as you do and from the corner of your eye you see a large form, mostly deep red, revealed behind it and you turn quickly eyes wide and heart racing.
“Welcome, welcome, to Madam Mim’s.” Down the corridor a woman walks out of what looks to be a kitchen, door swinging half shut behind her as she walks forward. You fight the smile that threatens to cross your face as you see she’s dressed quite typically for her job. Her skirts are layered in browns and greens, ruffled and textured that brings to mind trees and moss. The off-white blouse she wears is flowy at the arms but weighed down at the chest by the long beaded necklaces she wears with trinkets dangling from them.
“Let me look at you, let me look at you my dear,” she flows over to you, a stark contrast against your rigid posture, “you’ll be here for a tarot reading I see, your past present and future laid before you. I’ve got time to squeeze you in before my lunch is done. It’ll be 9 drach’s” You can hear the hum of a microwave through the open door as you fish out the coins and press them in to her waiting hand..
“Uh... Ok.” She leads you through to a parlour, you can see the back of the card that sits in the window advertising the services. “I have some questions, about my new home?”
“Keep your question in mind and have a seat, we’ll get right to it.”
The room she takes you in is dark and muggy, with the scent of incense being dispersed around the room by a very out of place white plastic fan that oscillates next to a stuffed owl display. At the centre of the room stands a round deep-coloured oak table with two matching chairs and at the centre is a deck of tarot cards.
Madame Mim gestures towards the deck, a staggering amount of blacelets tinkle around her thin wrist as she does so. “Shuffle the cards, keep your question in mind as you do, pass them back when you feel ready.”
Your shuffling is admittedly clumsy but Madame Mim pays no mind as the sound of a ticking clock, the drone of the fan, and your shuffling fills the room. Hesitantly you place them back in the centre and she whips them back up immediately, expertly spreading them along the table face down in a fan. “Choose a card, don’t look, place it face down here,” you do so, “another,” and again, and finally your choose the last and place it without prompting.
“Your past lies in the card of-“ she flips it and a figure of bone and tattered black cloth stares back at you, a reaping scythe in its hand as it stands above a wilting flower. “Death. But don’t worry this doesn’t mean there’s death in your past, just the end of one thing bringing way to a new beginning, as is the cycle of death my lovely.” She’s seen enough people Blanche at the sight of the death card, you think, as the words come out with the ease of someone who’s said the lines a thousand times over. “You say you recently moved house, so this is in your past now which you know, a good ending for a new beginning, things had to change for you to move on and start anew as the caterpillar dies for the butterfly to emerge.”
What a load of crap, you think to yourself. She’s only told you what you told her, that you had questions about your new house, it’s a given that you’ve had to leave something behind. You smile and nod, glad you’re a third of the way through, at least you can say you’d had the experience.
“For the present you have... The Devil,” the flipped card has a figure, red with horns and satyr-like legs, holding a naked man and woman on leashes made of chain, “You’re trapped in a situation, one of your own making, this choice you’ve made to end one thing and begin another was a bit of a risky move made against advice for want of something different for perhaps selfish reasons.”
You nod, although what she’s saying is far from the truth and in fact you’d made the move at the advice of everyone, as well as in financial stability. Her hand hovers over the final card.
“Your future holds... The Ten of Swords,” Her voice fades in to nothingness as you stare at the card that had been turned. A man lies on his back, draped in a deep red cloth. His hair is pale, countenance relaxed in death, the ten swords that pierce his body attest to that. In the background the sun sets on dark waters that turn red around his body. Your mind goes back to the dream of the basement, of your visitor laying still in dark waters, draped in red, of the blood that stained your bed flowing steadily from a wound on his chest.
“Does that make sense to you, love?” Mim’s tilting her head to the side, regarding you with strangely patient impatience that only someone of her age could have perfected, and you nod.
“A... A little, I suppose.”
“Wonderful, I’m very happy to have helped you dear.”
She’s expertly ushering you out of the door in a way that makes you feel as though you’re choosing to leave, being taken by your own two feet, and you stumble over your feet and words as you reach the door.
“I do have a question that wasn’t answered though.”
She raises an eyebrow, “The cards aren’t all knowing, they answer what you need to know, not want to know.”
“It’s just that, I think I’m being haunted. And I wanted to know what he needs.”
Her other eyebrow joins the other and she nods, “Well what do all ghosts linger for?” You shake your head dumbly. “Unfinished business, my dear, he has unfinished business. So you need to help him finish it.”
It’s been longer than I wanted it to be! Thank you for the reviews and kudos. I will be honest I’ve been struggling with depression, and I’ve not even had it in me to enjoy reading fanfiction let alone write it but I’m doing better recently so I’m pulling up my socks and throwing myself back in to the life I enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter, it’s weird I keep thinking “oh this will happen next” but the story is like “uh no it won’t this is going to happen sit down”. I’m enjoying the ride at least, even if I’m not driving completely.
Please let me know if you spot any mistakes as I don’t beta these chapters.