Ken gave his friend a wary look. Neither of them had slept the night before, and now, Alex’s jaw was hard and his eyes distant. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea, he thought. “You sure you still want to do this? If you wanted to get in your car and drive back down this mountain I wouldn’t blame you.”
Alex’s eyes widened. “Do you really think I’m that much of a pussy?”
“No, not at all, I just figured…”
“Look, while this is some crazy shit, I am sticking around, and I don’t think you should be staying here alone with everything going on.” Alex gave Ken a matter-of-fact look, and placed another mini-camera into his backpack.
Alex had brought everything. EMF detectors, thermometers, voice recorders, and, of course, all the cameras.
“All right.” Ken put some water and beef jerky into another backpack, along with a small first aid kid. “You got everything?”
Ken nodded and hefted his pack over his shoulder. Alex did the same and left the rented cottage behind them. It was a beautiful day for a hike. The sky was clear blue save for a exactly two billowing white clouds in the distance. Ken stopped for a moment to bask in the warmth of the sun, feeling it’s radiance on his face and arms. It had rained for so many days already that he was beginning to think he’d never see the sun again.
Alex was already far ahead, and almost passed the trail.
“Wait,” Ken called after him, sprinting to catch up. He pointed into the forest, to the barely discernable path there. “This way.”
He forged ahead, leading Alex, half worried that maybe he was crazy and he’d imagined the ghostly apparition the night before, and the cabin earlier in the week. But Alex had seen the ghost, too, he reminded himself. Or perhaps he’d only fooled himself.
“How did you manage to figure out this was a trail?” Alex seemed bewildered. “We should have brought chalk or something.”
“To leave ourselves visual breadcrumbs to follow back, so we don’t get lost.”
Ken shrugged. “I found my way there and back once, I imagine we can do it again. Besides, it’s daylight. It’s doubtful we’ll end up lost with the sun up.”
Thankfully, Alex dropped it. Fifteen more minutes hiking through the trees brought them to the wide hilled clearing with the cottage standing on the hill’s highest point. Ken surmised that if a foggy mist rolled in, and one was standing on that cottage porch, one wouldn’t be able to tell they were surrounded by trees or mountains at all.
“How much further?” Alex asked.
Ken stopped short and pointed at the cottage with its hole filled roof and sagging porch. “It’s right here.”
“I’m pretty sure those people wouldn’t want us tromping around their house looking for ghosts,” Alex said, nodding toward the building. Then he turned to the porch. “Sir, Ma’am. Sorry we’re crossing your property, we didn’t…” Then Alex stopped short and turned to Ken. “There isn’t a road leading here.”
Ken looked at his friend in disbelief. “That’s the place. Right now what I see is the shell of a cottage that has been abandoned and is in disrepair. No people.”
Alex’s face went white. “Then why do I see a well-kept cottage and people sitting on the porch?”
Ken shrugged, a little put out that he wasn’t able to see what
Alex saw. Why the ghosts had decided to show themselves only to Alex was a mystery. “Talk to them.”
“Oh, sure. We’d love to, thank you,” Alex said to the empty porch. Then he leaned over and whispered to Ken, “They want us to come up for lemonade.”
“Maybe you should tell them that your friend can’t see them and wishes they would show themselves because he’d like to talk to them, too.” Ken looked back up to the cottage, half expecting it to have changed, that he would be able to see the ghosts, but that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately.
Alex didn’t answer and ran ahead, going up the steps two at a time. He disappeared into the front door. Ken ambled in after him, again expecting to see the ghost he’d seen before in her June Cleaver clothes straight from a fifties sitcom. But when he got inside, nothing but a dilapidated building, ravaged by weather and time. He walked through the living room, back to the Kitchen. “Alex?”
When no one answered, Ken left the kitchen and went back to the bedrooms. Alex wasn’t there either. “What the hell?”
He turned to go back down the hallway to the living room again, and tripped on something laying on the floor. He caught himself on the wall and regained his footing, then looked down. It was Alex’s backpack. “Alex?” he called again. Fear rose up his spine.
The cottage didn’t have a basement, just the few rooms. It made positioning the cameras easy. He turned them on once he got them up, then grabbed an EMF detector and went through the entire building. It spiked in the kitchen and the back left bedroom. Otherwise, it was silent. Then Ken grabbed the voice recorder and flipped it on. “Alex?”
He waited a few seconds, turned it off, and rewound. He heard his own voice, then he heard Alex, clear as day, “Do you want some lemonade?”
There was a woman’s voice there, too, but he couldn’t make out what she said.
Ken turned the recorder on again and said, “Look, whoever you are – whatever you are – you need to give me back my friend and you need to do it now!”
A sense of dread and fear washed over him. Then he heard heavy footfalls running across the wooden floor toward him, pounding so hard that dust rose from the floor. Something big and cold hit Ken square in the chest, knocking him backward into the ground. The wind flew out of his chest with a whoosh.
Then there was silence. From the back bedroom came a sickening scraping sound, like something heavy dragging itself along. Ken wanted to run, but he wasn’t about to leave without Alex.
He got up and grabbed the camera closest to him, throwing it into his pack. He tucked the voice recorder, still on, into his jeans pocket. Then he took two steps toward the hallway. The scraping noise had stopped.
There was a dark heap on the floor. Ken recognized the red shirt. “Alex!” He ran over to him and checked to see if he was still breathing. He was, but he had been knocked out cold as evidenced by the quail egg shaped bump on his right temple.
Ken hurried and collected all of the cameras, not bothering to check if he’d turned them off. Once he had all of the equipment and both packs, he went back to Alex and shook him.
Alex stirred and moved, then opened his eyes and lifted his head. “Yeow.” He brought his hand to his head.
That’s when Ken saw the claw marks across his forearm. “Alex, we have to get out of here.”
Alex nodded and struggled to get his feet underneath him. When he did, Ken helped him up further, supported him under one arm, and practically dragged him out of the cottage, down the steps, and into the clearing. The sun was already starting to set in the west.
Ken looked at his watch. It was already five. “Alex, we have to go or we’ll end up lost out here. Can you walk?”
Alex gave him a weak nod and shielded his eyes from the light with his hand. Ken put his arms under his friends’ arm again and together, they hobbled back down the trail to the rental cottage.
All the while, Ken panicked inside, realizing he could have lost Alex to the house forever. There were some things that should never be messed with and he vowed then and there to never go back.
Watch this blog for more installments. To be continued…
(Note – if you would like to read bonus chapters of this serial paranormal mystery, subscribe to my newsletter!)
(C) Copyright 2017