|SECOND PLACE in the Sinister Stories Contest, by Jeff , December 2011
A hand reached out from the darkness and touched her head, making it move forward. A chill ran down her back. She wasn’t expecting this to happen there, but upstairs. Little drops of sweat rolled down her forehead, and breathing had become very difficult in that abandoned basement. She hesitated, but persevered. Izzy Allgood knew that her Paranormal Activity investigation and report had to be accurate.
“Was that you? Who are you? Talk to me. I’m here to communicate with you.” She looked around, but felt nothing; saw nothing. As an experienced ghost tracker, she would normally feel a presence, yet, not this time. Had she been wrong all along? The green, orange and red colors of her custom built D.E.A.D. (Direct External Abnormal Data logging) system weren’t moving up or down; static since an hour ago. Her TDL (Temperature Data Logger) device wasn’t detecting any alpha, beta or gamma rays nor poltergeists.
“Who are you? Why are you here? Why do you stay here? Tell me your story.” An unseen hand tapped her again, on her forehead, and pushed it backward this time. With her heart drumming violently in her chest, she took a deep breath. Her lungs ached for fresh air; her chest, compressed. Sweat ran down her neck and back like little rivers in dry soil. She stretched her arms out and moved them around her, trying to feel ... a body, but there was none; only hers. Was her mind playing tricks on her because of the dark? Was it the silence or was it the fat moon outside?
“I need you to stop pushing me like that, and talk to me. I am here. I came here because of your cries. I am here to understand you. Who are you?”
Izzy Allgood felt the bite on her left wrist. She screamed. She reached her red flashlight on her waist and switched it on. She aimed the light at the dark, left hand-side corner of the big room. Nothing. She lit the area of her hurt wrist. Deep tooth bites; human. There was no bleeding, though, just painful, red, throbbing marks. A ghost?
“Why did you bite me? I need you to stop hurting me, and I need you to start talking to me. It’s my job. I report the paranormal. Who are you? Talk to me. Maybe ... you don’t have a truth.”
Her body found the ground with the violent blow -- as if she had been taken by thin air and had been thrown by thousands of invisible hands on the floor. She passed out, but not before seeing her flashlight being switched off and hearing her high tech digital recorder being turned on. Her high speed Fluxgate Paranormal Magnetometer Sensor started to beep, and her Ghost Tracker measured an unidentified field strength in the left-side corner of the room; determining its temperature and frequency. It was right there, haunting, powerful, and real.
She opened her eyes. She saw the moonlight coming from the upstairs door, half-open, and a gloomy brightness painted the old, wooden staircase. She narrowed her eyes in order to get accustomed to the dark basement and all her senses became aware of a strange, shacking noise ... so subtle, but present. More rattling sounds. She got all goosebumps and the hair on the back of her neck stood up. She heard a grumbling sound, but she didn’t hesitate one inch. She struggled to move. When her injured body reached the wall, she managed to sit up, lean her sore back on the brick wall and sigh deeply. She hugged her knees to her chest, trembling. She had never been so scared and vulnerable before in all her years of paranormal hunting. Not even in that creepy house in Massachusetts when she was trying to detect the true nature of a soul.
“I can hear you, breathing. I know you are over there, somewhere, moving. Don’t hurt me; talk to me. You must be angry; maybe years of isolation. Why didn’t you cross over? Where’s my gear? I need it, to understand your unsettled mind. What’s your name?”
Loud rattling noises approached her but stopped right in front of her feet. She heard the pulling and rattling but it would not come closer, and she knew why, because she could feel it in her bones. It--she was kept in chains, prevented from leaving the basement, a timeless prisoner of darkness. Movement in the air. Her backpack was mysteriously thrown near her from the opposite wall. She reached for it and found her flashlight.
She switched it on and directed the light across from her. Her heart missed a beat; her mouth, wide-open. Right there, on the other side of the gloomy room sat a horrifying translucent figure of a woman -- or monster, chained by her legs to the stone walls. The chains were 10 feet long, and enough for her to reach the other walls but not where Izzy was; closer to the staircase. It--she was staring at both Izzy Allgood and at the stairs as if both of them were a mirage in the desert. Dirty, long hair, and wild, black eyes; the apparition seemed to look at her in such a way that her dark eyes went right through her body and beyond. Her body was skeletal; flesh and bones, and long dirty nails. Paranoia, horror, and shock; Izzy was paralyzed with fear. The ghost just stood there, then it stared at Izzy and its head tilted. Naked, she stood up and walked back and forth, chains rattling on the stones, her hands behind her back. Sometimes the deformed figure changed, like a chameleon. Her dark hair was either long or in ringlets, and sometimes she wore a long, black, worn out polka dot dress. She growled, trying to speak. Finally, a deep and sad lament exploded from her skinny chest and she stretched out a begging hand in Izzy’s direction and said: “I am Jadea. Help me.”
Izzy Allgood’s G.O.D. (Geological Originator Detector) started flashing neurotically--logically trying to explain the activity. She swallowed hard, caught her breath; she had never had an encounter such as this one before. Never; ever. “How can I help you?” Tell me your story.”
“Since the dawn of time itself I have been ... here; placed here. I found a spot ... to be and I stayed in the darkness."
“Who put you here?”
“That man--my father. In 1888. Yes, I remember the year well because I had recently celebrated my twenty-first birthday; right after my mother passed away. He brought me down here one day. He hit me hard on my head, with a stone. When I woke up I was chained to the wall, like an animal. Am I dead?”
“Yes, you are.” Izzy shook her flashlight. The batteries went down.
“Am I a ghost?”
“Yes, you are one.” Izzy was in the same darkness as the ghost’s.
“How long have I been ... here?”
“For 123 years. What do you remember; you know... noises, voices, changes?” Izzy was feeling just as empty as the darkness around her.
“He simply stopped coming, and I--I guess I simply stopped living. I remember hearing strange, different noises sometimes; noises I had never heard before, but I got used to them. Then, I started imagining...”
“How to escape. How different the world would be, and if I would manage to survive in it. Could I? Would I? How is it that you can see me while others can’t? The others of your kind heard me, though, I know they did.”
“You are the first apparition I can actually see--not read in the devices, heard in my EVP or recorded sounds. There must be a reason, Jadea. There must be an unknown reason. I don't know. I wish I did.”
“It’s because I wanted you to, that’s why. You’ll see. 'We’ can make things... happen. I had all the time in the world to figure things out.”
“The only way for you to escape, leave this prison, is to accept your fate, ease your heart and cross over. You have been here for too long; suffered too much. You must understand that the chains that hold you to this plane are invisible. You are in another dimension. You are a free spirit, Jadea. My family will be able to sell the house and move on. So will you. You exist in your own world--a world which isn’t real anymore, it’s not yours. Stop haunting ... yourself, Jadea.”
“I can’t. Not--not until you unchain me, free me. I will feel them forever, wherever I go, on my legs. Only you can.”
“If I do, you must not hurt me. Promise.”
“How can I hurt you? I’m a ghost.”
“You see, Jadea, I ‘know’ that things can... happen, too.”
“But you bit me!”
“I was angry...”
“I need to find my tools. I need the other flashlight. This one won’t work.” As soon as she said that, her flashlight fell on her lap as if it had been dropped from the basement’s damp ceiling.
“Help me. I want to cross over. I want to find him.”
“Him, you know who ... my father.”
“You won’t.” Izzy Allgood told her while she boldly crept toward the supernatural being that was calmly sitting opposite her in the cold basement.
“Jadea, listen to me. You’ve been dead for 123 years or so. He is dead--just as you are. Forget about him. Forget the past. Forgive. You’ll have a future ahead of you when I set you free. You will cross the portal. You need to cross over to be with your people, your family and others like... you. You are not earthbound, Jadea, you are not--earthbound.”
“I understand.” Rattling noises. Impatience.
“I’m coming closer now.”
“I know.” Chains pulling in the darkness. Silence.
Izzy didn’t look at Jadea as she approached her because she looked uglier at every second. She aimed the flashlight over the chain with one hand and hammered the hook stuck to the wall with the other while the noise of metal and rust enveloped the stuffy air. Jadea, waiting patiently, had a translucent teeth-like smile on her skeletal expression. Her eyes seemed like two, dark glass spheres. She had no heart but her cold soul was at the point of explosion; full of unimaginable bliss. She had been waiting for ages ... and ages for this moment.
A hand grabbed the back of Izzy’s neck. It was bony, and it felt like ice. Izzy Allgood’s heart felt like it had stopped beating, and she softly counted to ten in her head, pretending that this wasn’t happening--whatever it was. The hand let go and she found herself sitting on the cold ground while heavy chains surrounded her legs, and her back, leaning against the damp wall, was somehow paralyzed. She was confused and upset; a chill crept up her spine. What had she done? This wasn’t happening. Where was she? Then, she realized what had happened, and started to weep when she looked up--to the basement’s door.
As cold as thin air itself, a translucent mist-like horrifying figure of a decayed woman had already reached the top of the stairs, had slowly closed the basement’s door behind her, and had disappeared into the daylight of the mysterious Screaming Woods of Eastern Kentucky. Izzy’s body was found, many years later, in the basement of the old, abandoned house she had been ghost hunting. The people that found her never understood why she was wearing a polka dot dress and was leaning against the basement’s wall; her backpack, all her gear and devices, right there, next to her. Why hadn’t she left the basement? Why was she sitting there, staring at the stairs? What had happened to her? When they finally played her voice recorder the only words registered were: Thank you, Izzy Allgood. Jadea Allgood.