When a ghost vigil is interrupted a sudden realisation is made.
I opened my eyes, trying to stare deep beyond the darkness, my brain trying in vain to find familiarity in the gloom. Instead my consciousness threw hallucinations against the back of my eyes, the human psyche so dedicated to the sense of sight it crumbled without the crutch of vision. I closed them but the darkness didn’t dissipate the twitching of my eyelids the only reminder that I was awake. I opened them again and stretched out a hand, my palm settling on the rough stone an arm’s length from my face. I dragged my hand along the rugged pores of the old walls, the sensation of rock on skin a relaxing paradox to the black oblivion around me. I cleared my throat and the walls coughed their imitation back at me from every angle, the echo fading to a whisper. I took two steps back until my heels were barred by more stone. Slowly bending my knees I rested my rear on the stone ledge that jutted out into the crypt, the silent masonry gladly exchanging its cold for the warmth of my buttocks. Even in the pitch black I knew the room very well.
During the Castle “Ghost Hunts” I would always come here to this one room on the lower level. The heavy door fitted its tight frame perfectly allowing no light in. The small confines of the space magnified any latent sense of unease, amplifying even the slightest sound. If you were stood still enough you could hear the blood pounding through your ears, the machinations of the body oblivious to the calm surrounding it. I had been there so long I had lost all sense of time, only the pleasant ache from my spine told me I had been standing for a prolonged period. My brain continually fumbled around the room like a drunk looking for his keys. My senses desperately seeking a clue, some detail in order to form a picture of what lay around me. Reflexively I raised my left wrist as if to check time on my watch, looking at the approximation of where my wrist was I chuckled at the empty gesture, the walls again joined in with their hollow mimicry.
The echoes of my own laugh wilted in the space around me then bizarrely began conversing with themselves, words so muffled they could have been spoken in any language. Fear gripped the skin across my head and tightened it around my skull like a swimming cap. I steadied myself however and listened acutely, eyes narrowing in an effort to assist my ears. Thankfully the words weren’t coming from inside the room and must have coming from outside, no doubt another vigil roaming the old Castle. Ghost hunting had become big business over the past few years with many old locations keen to commercialise the supernatural. You could almost guarantee vigils and gatherings would sell-out, people desensitised to fear by the saturation of pulp horror in modern media. This was why I always preferred to come to these things alone, the lone vigil a much more visceral thrill for me than watching a scary movie with the lights turned off. Much like a skateboarder constantly vying for a longer jump I continually sought to be scared as possible, although my pay-off was far less guaranteed.
I stood to my feet, the sound of my knees bending like the creak of a thousand year old, rusted gate in the relative silence of the room. It was now for the first time I felt the cold, it was bitter. I could imagine clouds of freezing breath taunting me beyond the dense black veil. With a zombies gesture I raised my hands and moved towards where I knew the door would be. My palms meeting the aged wood I searched for the metal latch and slowly eased the heavy mediaeval door away from its jamb, exiting the crypt onto the Castle’s Keep. Although extremely dark the large room felt like an autumn dawn in comparison to the black space I had spent the last… however long in. My eyes greedily devoured any ambient light revelling in the details that lay before them. Shapes revealed before me slowly falling into place, the blinking of my eyes assembling the picture as if building a jigsaw.
As expected the hushed talk was coming from a group sat on the ground at the corner of the Keep, the silent air turning their whispers into shouts. There were six of them sat in a circle holding hands, asking the empty Castle to show them a sign. A menagerie of electronic equipment littered the spaces between them: they seemed extremely well equipped for your usual paranormal hobbyists. A redhead with her back to me again called out for a response, the cold walls held their tongue. For a moment I thought about replying with a raspberry, but knowing it would be poor form supressed the urge. Curious, I wanted to approach but was a little apprehensive in how. Should I walk in complete silence and risk scaring someone half to death by appearing like some ill-mannered ninja, or do I loudly announce my presence and risk spoiling any atmosphere like some insensitive boor. I settled on a normal gait, desperate not to drag my feet but trying to make enough noise so they at least knew I was human.
I stopped around 5ft from the group busily trying to make eye contact with any of them. At the centre of the circle they had an old Ouija board laid out with a glass placed on top. Their attempts at contact obviously falling on deaf ears, the glass still centred, standing in a blank space. I had always thought the Victorian methods of contacting the spirits a little archaic. If I was a ghost I’d much prefer to come over and say hello than play a childish game of Scrabble. As if hearing my thoughts the leader broke off the circle with an exasperated sigh and picked a small recorder, pushing the heavy switch in. Looking up we made eye contact, and I awkwardly threw up a hand and a half-whispered greeting.
“Hey. Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“Shhhhh!” She scowled at me, her head half-cocked and eyes stretched in confusion at my sudden appearance. I knew the last thing they would want is more human company but always thought those who believed in the paranormal would get along, owing to their vested interests.
“Look, I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I was just being friendly.”
“SSSHHHHH!” Her eyes kept on me but this time the noise was for the benefit of those around her… I guess I was wrong.
“Jesus. My bad, I’ll just quietly piss-off shall I.”
I turned and walked away, hearing behind me the group rising to their feet, afraid I was just about to be beaten to death by a group of angry amateur ghost hunters. Smirking at the irony I walked across the other side of the Keep and sat on a large step protruding from the base of a wall. The group were all stood motionless now and the girl was holding her recorder above her head. The cold had turned my hands into the claws of a Lego-Man and I stuffed them underneath my thighs in an attempt to warm them. I noticed they had certainly come prepared; all were wrapped in heavy jackets, hats and gloves. Looking down it dawned on me I didn’t even have a jacket on; I must’ve left it in the crypt.
Still searching the air for their taciturn spirits they approached to where I was sitting. This time I thought it best to sit silent, let one of them bring the conversation to me. They moved in formation as if each one of them was an individual leg of a larger creature. The redhead still moved up front as the roving head of the strange beast, recorder still held aloft like an Olympic torch. A tall man with long, dark hair approached where I was sitting, I attempted my best nonchalant, silent flick of the head. He looked at me for a moment and then his attention was drawn to an odd electronic device in his hand. It genuinely looked like the Ghostbusters PKE meter; this lot were so serious I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to actually be one. As all spurned humans do I pretended that I hadn’t intended to make conversation and picked up a small stone from the ground. I turned it over in my fingers searching it for an interesting detail that would keep my eyes from wandering back to the group.
“Was this door open when we came in here?” The group rounded on the crypt door I had left open, in hope they had found evidence of their ghost. Hearing the question I quickly jumped to my feet, expertly sliding my cold hands from under my thighs and into my pockets as I rose. They probably thought I was an idiot, dressed as I was in only my t-shirt and jeans.
“Ah, yeah sorry guys, that was me. I was sat in there doing a lone vigil, I left when I heard you all speaking.”
One of them shone a torch into the crypt, the light ricocheted throughout the small confines making it glow like a Chinese lantern.
“It’s pretty awesome in there, definitely the quietest place in the castle for sure. Oh, can you see my jacket in there? I think I left it by there by mist…”
He closed the door with a hard bang, and then testing its resolve pulled on it with his bodyweight… all he succeeded in doing was testing mine. In a fit of frustration I launched the stone still in my hand across the Keep. It noisily clattered off the ground with a kick of dust and barked against the stone wall before coming to a spinning stop back beside my feet. Every single face was frozen on me in complete shock. I suddenly felt the heat of embarrassment surge across my face, my body language desperately trying to adopt a pose that wasn’t awkward. I realised I had no idea what I was trying to prove, all I really wanted was them to acknowledge me.
“Look, sorry if I’m shitting on your parade or whatever but I’ve as much right to be here as you. You don’t have to be such dicks about it.”
“Shhhh! there it is again. Everyone be quiet.” The redhead once more, “Is there someone there? Are you trying to talk to us?”
“Are you actually taking the piss now?”
“Again. Do you hear it? It’s like a whisper coming from all around us. It’s become so cold; can anyone else feel the cold spot around us?”
“JO! I have a figure on infrared! It’s standing right in front of us. A fucking human figure Jo! Jesus Christ! It’s standing right in front of us!”
A young man was pointing a video camera in my direction; I was ready to storm off but the look on his face held my attention in a vice; it was a look of abject fear. Eyelids peeled back like theatre curtains, the whites of his eyes glowing brightly in the low light. His mouth was hanging slackly open and his bottom lip trembled in time with the camera in his hands. I could tell he wasn’t joking; fear is a difficult emotion to fake, especially if you have felt terror like that before.
“Seriously, James did you throw that stone? This isn’t funny anymore, I’m getting scared guys.”
I know that feeling; I remember feeling scared not so long ago… but where?
“I’m getting a lot of orbs Jo! Are you seeing these, Jesus they’re everywhere.”
In the car.
“Hold that position Pete, are you recording? Please tell me you’re fucking recording.”
Wait… what car?
“Yeah! I’m recording but the image is so weird. The heat signature is flickering all over the place. I’ve never seen anything like it!”
My car, I think. Did I crash? I can’t remember. I know something happened but what?
“It’s so, so cold. Can you all feel that? Is someone taking temperature readings? Oh God the EMF meter is going berserk.”
There was snow. I remember now the terror. There was… a screech… headlights.
“If you are a spirit trying to make contact please reach out to us and make contact. We can help you if you let us.”
But if I had an accident how did I get here? I can’t remember getting here at all. I couldn’t have walked in my t-shirt and jeans. My t-shirt, wait… why is my t-shirt wet? Oh Jesus… it’s blood… it’s my blood.