The bare branches of fall painted skeletons on the siding and their shadows danced under the gaze of the moon. I swallowed hard following Nate closer to the house. The pulse vibrating deep under my skin only grew stronger with each step.
Why would Vanessa do this? She stood with her arms crossed and a smug half smile smeared on her face. She knew I wanted Brad to stay with me, at least he would have been a good distraction. Maybe she thought I would chicken out. But Nate… why did she pick him?
I might have thought Nate was cute in my old life. He was slender but not scrawny, maybe like a soccer player would be. He pulled down on the black beanie and fiddled with the zipper on his jacket before glancing back at the group. They huddled around each other. There’s strength in numbers I hear, and they were content in letting us fend for ourselves. They don’t even know what resides in that house and I bet not one of them would have taken our place.
“Move,” I shoved Nate to the side and yanked the padlock off, and the door opened like it was inviting us in. A low rumble of “ooh’s” came from the crowd of boys behind us. I was ready for this night to be over. Maybe it was the general creepiness of the house, or it was the pulsing itself, but none of me wanted to go in there. It felt bad. It felt wrong.
When the door slid open, the wind angered the dust that lay dormant on the floor, twisting it into an unbreathable fog. The dust dried my mouth and coated my lungs, but I pushed through the cloud until we reached the opening on the other side.
The house seemed untouched. Not even a sign of rodents or birds disrupted the dust on any of the surfaces, but our own shoes left distinct footprints on the hardwood floor. I stepped light, trying not to kick up another dust storm. I didn’t know the last time the house was occupied, but the furniture remained covered like it was just waiting for its owner to return home from their vacation in Florida.
“Why the hell are we doing this?” Nate objected.
“Because if we don’t, then we have to run through the gym naked. And I don’t know about you, but I would rather get this over tonight then get expelled.”
“Or we could just not do either?”
“That’s not how it works Nate. Stop being a baby.” A breeze floated through the room, making the tiny hairs on my arms stand up.
I rubbed my arms, trying to release the chill that encompassed me. These autumn nights were hard to judge with the fight of the seasons, and I only wore a tee-shirt thinking Vanessa’s house would be the only destination.
“Here.” Nate swung his jacket off and handed it to me, “I’ve at least got a hoodie.”
“Thank you.” I hung my head feeling a little sorry for snapping at him, now that he’d given me his jacket. It was two sizes too big, but the inside was soft and warm, and it smelled like Abercrombie and Fitch. We passed a flight of stairs and went through an archway decorated with vintage white molding. Dark curtains held back by yellow and gold tassels lined the boarded-up windows of the lower floor. A few chairs and a sofa formed a sitting area on the opposite side. This was as good a spot as any to camp for the night. Nate folded the sheet that covered a yellowed sofa to contain the dust. The sofa itself didn’t hold a speck.
Despite the musky smell that attacked my nose when I sat, it was more comfortable than I expected. “What should we do?”
“I dunno. Sleep? At least the night will go by faster.” He placed the flashlight upright on the center table releasing an umbrella of light that illuminated the whole room.
I had to agree. I wanted to get out of here and the faster, the better or at least before she found me. I had no desire to know what the woman in the window wanted. It was strange enough that she hadn’t already found me. Based on past experiences I’d never had trouble with spirits coming to me before. I curled up into the far corner of the couch, opposite of Nate and closed my eyes.
A faint tapping jostled me from a light sleep. I pulled my feet onto the sofa like something from beneath might grab them and pull me into another dimension. Despite Nate’s warm jacket, an icy chill that I was too familiar with swept the room. Right on cue, the flashlight began to flicker. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my heartbeat that only seemed to amplify the pulse that beat through the house. Nate shifted in his sleep and shivered. Could he feel it too?
No, that’s silly. The only other person I’ve met was Sky. I watched the archway near the stairs, waiting for the woman in white to descend, but she never came. I leaned back in my corner of the couch and pulled Nate’s jacket tight up around my neck and closed my eyes.
The chill refused to fade. Sleeping now would be impossible. I flashed my phone screen, 3:02 AM. I pushed myself off the couch, careful not to wake Nate. We both shouldn’t have to suffer this night. I walked back toward the entrance, hoping that the “guards” may have left for the night. But before I even reached the window near the door, light from their flashlights- or maybe headlights- drew tiny slits on the wall from between the boards.
“Emilia…” My heart jumped at the unfamiliar voice. “Emilia…” it cooed again. Nate slept soundly on the couch. I expected the woman to appear somewhere, but nothing. Usually, spirits didn’t hesitate, but if there is one thing I knew about the lady in white, she wasn’t typical.
Something drew me to the stairs. Maybe it was my curiosity or the inner detective from my adventures with Sky, but I couldn’t help but follow the voice.
Each step made a creak that I was sure would wake Nate. He only shuffled once, and his soft snores continued. The pulse turned into a pound that vibrated in the floor boards. No color on the upper floor was distinguishable in the dust and darkness. Objects began to form from the moonlight coming in the window at the end of the hall, a dresser of sorts and three doors were all that mark the hallway.
I passed the first door and stopped in front of the second. The pounding halted. I stared at the old wood door and examined its rusty knob, unsure if it would even open. The pounding subsided, leaving in its place the first sense of peace since we arrived. “Come in...”
I stared at the knob for what felt like hours, mostly because my body refused to move. My muscles screamed and fought as I bent my elbow to reach the door handle. The knob protested my entry with the unruly grind of metal on metal, forcing my teeth to clench. Dust and paint fell from the doorway into my hair, as the door finally surrendered and opened.
My eyes begin to adjust to the darkened room, and I covered my mouth to prevent a scream. On the metal-framed bed, lay a woman. Her brown hair tied back behind her head and her hands folded across her stomach. She was not a spirit at all. She was physical, and she was dead.
Thanks for stopping in, chapter four will be released 6/16/17. I hope you are enjoying Emilia’s Awakening. Leave me a comment below with your thoughts and predictions!