“The amount of spiritual knowledge passed down to us through works of fiction astounds me even now. Before the Fall of the Old World, Hollywood presented a great many films that, while riddled with falsehoods and make-believe, did actually contain a few factual gems. I employed one such truth back in those days in an attempt to rid myself of the Haunt in my house. I meant well, but looking back on it now, I know it put me in more danger than it saved me from…”
Seraphina lounged on the living room chaise studying the slip of parchment left behind by the thing, fingers tracing the strange red symbol on its surface. It was half past noon and light enough out that she’d decided to venture down from the attic again.
Her situation was horrifying, but even worse was her reaction to it all. The more real the haunting became, the easier Seraphina found herself easing into that reality. She was frightened, of course, and who wouldn’t be, but part of her was elated. It was a dangerous, chaotic part of her. One that would surely get her into trouble.
Ghosts are real! She thought.
Ghosts, the things that society swore were figments of the imagination, exist. The previous monotony of bumps in the night were nothing compared to footsteps in the halls, or the very solid piece of paper she was holding.
She wondered if he could talk; it was a him if his baritone chuckle was anything to go by. She wondered what he looked like, if he had a solid form, or if he was an ethereal glowing thing like in the stories.
“No…” She said aloud, tracing the red markings on the parchment with a finger again and remembering the inky black shadows that had swirled around the attic door. Whoever he was, darkness was his deal. Darkness and tinkling bells.
Memories of that morning brought back the fear of harm. If he’s solid, he can hurt you. Her rational mind suggested. If he can hurt you, he can kill you.
Soon, her sense of self preservation won out over her curiosity and she began contemplating ways to protect herself. Part of her wanted to meet the ghost, but she also didn’t want to end up like the poor saps in the movies.
If only I could just evict the Bastard…
“Or maybe I can smoke him out.” She said.
Leaping up, she placed the parchment on the coffee table and went upstairs to change into a comfortable pair of sweats. When she came back down, Seraphina crept to the back hall and started towards the basement.
She arrived at the door and turned the handle. The oak creaked on its hinges as the door opened in to the sub-level.
No ghouls, no goblins…
Cautiously, she descended the narrow steps. Dust particles danced in the minuscule sunlight peeking through horizontal upper windows and eerie silence enveloped the place. She was alone, for now, and started rummaging through boxes.
Soon she’d found her candles, incense bowl, matches and white sage. Burning the herb was supposed to rid a space of negative spiritual energy. She’d learned that from her grandmother and despite it being a recurring theme in many horror films, she felt confident that of all the options she had available to her, this was one that could work. Old Grandma Evers had been superstitious but never a fool.
She lit the dried bundle of herbs and decided to smudge the house from top to bottom, waving the smoking bundle in a circular motion as she made her way back up to the attic. The smoke billowed as she paced and she took care that it reached every nook and cranny of the room.
She did the same in all of the other upper floor rooms and felt a short lived bout of relief and conflicting disappointment as she encountered nothing but still silence in each; until she entered reentered the living area on the first floor.
The parchment she’d been “gifted” that morning had migrated. She distinctly remembered placing it on the coffee table, yet there it sat on the kitchen counter for her to find. She didn’t like that one bit and swiped it up to shove it in a pocket, deciding to find a place for it in the basement.
After the lower level was sufficiently smokey, she made her way to the sub-level again, lighting a few candles in the gloom before waving her herbs around. It wasn’t long before the scuffling of rodent feet sounded in the dimness, too close for comfort.
She whirled, brandishing her bundle of sage and finding nothing behind her but shadow. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, she tried to activate the light but the damned thing was unresponsive even though it was fully charged that morning.
As the temperature in the basement took a nosedive, a laugh rang out that was not her own. “Clever, clever girl.” Came a masculine voice from a dark corner, sounding distant, as if muffled by cotton. “I didn’t expect you to know about Spirit herbs. Most of your kind bring in an exorcist.” As the shadows fluttered, her glaze zeroed in on the movement. “They never work, but the herbs… that’s a nice trick. Tell me, what other surprises do you have up your sleeve?”
“You…” Seraphina hissed, giving up on her phone light and swiping a lit candle off a nearby box. “You’re the one from this morning.” She felt her stomach turn. And you can talk. She thought.
“I’m one of them.”
“One of them?”
He laughed. “Oh, did you think it was just me skulking about? No, no, Darling. You’ve got quite the infestation.”
Seraphina’s eyes strained to see any shape of him in the undulating darkness. The candle light wasn’t strong enough to penetrate the thick shadows in the corner and all she could make out was dark, swirling smoke that contrasted with the milky white of burning sage.
“So you’ve been haunting the house and there are more of you. I don’t suppose you’ll tell me what you want this time, or where you come from.”
“Yes and no.” Though his voice was deep and rumbling, the tone was polite, conversational. “I’m not haunting, as you put it. I’m doing my job. The others are here to spook and scare, I’m just putting them back where they belong.”
Part of Seraphina wanted to bolt, the other part of her was in awe. She was talking to him! A thing from another place! “And what part of this job of yours involves snatching marbles and slipping gifts under doors?” She clung to her usual snippy sarcasm despite the nervous butterflies in her stomach. Anger and snark were much more useful things to wield rather than the hysterics she might give into if she gave herself the chance.
“Ah, the offering.” The five speckled orbs in question burst into existence between her and the shadows, hovering ominously. Seraphina jumped, startled, and he laughed. “Personally, I don’t need an offering to make contact with you, but some of them do. I just took them before something else could… You can have them back if you miss them, but I wouldn’t suggest presenting them again.” The marbles dropped to the concrete and sputtered across the floor. “You’re lucky it was me who snatched them up.”
“Lucky isn’t the word I would use.” She mumbled as one of the marbles batted against her bare toe and went spiraling into the dark.
“You are lucky, Miss Evers.” She balked at his use of her family name. “The others are weaker than I, but if you give them the opportunity to gain strength they will take it and none of them are nearly so pleasant as I have been…”
The shadows drifted forward and Seraphina stepped back. “You call banging against the walls and rearranging furniture pleasant?” She continued on, disregarding the flutter in her stomach that begged her to run.
“That wasn’t me.” He sounded amused. “I ring the bells. The others bump in the night.”
“And these… others. What are they here for?” She asked.
“Oh, any number of things.” He answered. “None of them good for you... There’s a tear in the veil between our worlds and they can’t help but push through. Not very disciplined, those ones.” The shadows writhed and two shining lavender pinpoints appeared somewhere around the six foot mark. Seraphina stared up at them, marveling guiltily as he continued. “Your herbs are keeping them at bay, but it won’t solve the problem. They’ll come back eventually.”
Seraphina shivered, suddenly realizing how casually she’d been conversing with him, and started to back away again. “And why isn’t the sage working on you?”
“Well, I’m a lot older than the others. After a few centuries the usual tricks stop affecting some of us.” He pondered silently for a moment. “What do you think of the gift I left you, Seraphina?” He used her name and it rankled since she had never truly introduced herself to him.
“I…” She thought for a moment about the red symbol scrawled upon the slip of parchment, her pocket feeling heavy all of the sudden. It occurred to her that anyone in their right mind would have thrown it out. If she was honest with herself, she had contemplated burning it, but that honest part of her would also have to admit that she’d dismissed the notion because she liked it. It was a slice of truth, a real physical piece of evidence that proved none of what was happening was the deranged daydream of a lonely artist. “I’m not sure what I’m meant to do with it…” she offered instead of confessing her feelings. It wasn’t a lie. What would anyone think to do with a thing like that anyways, aside from throw it out with the trash?
“Oh. You’re meant to — “
He stopped speaking abruptly, glowing purple eyes swiveling to the side as if he had heard something that she could not sense. Rat scuffling echoed into the basement again and Seraphina shuffled nervously in the cold.
“I’m afraid we’ll have to continue this conversation at a later time. You ought to go, before you see something your mind can’t handle…”
She didn’t need more convincing than that, turning to sprint up the stairs from the basement. Wood moaned, as if someone set foot upon the bottom step. She whirled to look back once she reached the hallway, seeing nothing, though a peculiar new sound began. It was like ocean waves; like a storm brewing on the coast.
When the man’s voice filtered up to her again, it wasn’t to Seraphina that he was speaking. “Ah, Ah, Ah.” He admonished. “Today is not your day.” An inhuman wail shrieked below and it was followed by a jostling of boxes and crashing objects.
“Jesus…” She said, slamming the door shut and hurrying into the living room.
Scared out of her wits, but enveloped in the sensation of wonder, she laughed out loud. The crashing noises from the basement continued, not ceasing until another strangled animal cry was heard. Then all the chilliness in the air dissipated on the heels of a bell chiming from the sub-level.
“This is happening.” She whispered, pulling the parchment from her pocket and staring at it. “This is really happening…”