One—The Day After
When Gwen Barry asked me if it was her dog (now adopted) that was chasing me and my friends yesterday, I paused for a moment, then shook my head. "No, it was something else. It was lunch time, and we were walking through the main hallway, heading for the stairs leading to the school cafeteria.
Due to the lousy weather and the major improvement in today's lunches, it was jam-packed. The noise volume increased with every step we took.
"Well, what was it then?" Gwen asked, a trifle impatiently.
I gritted my teeth, mentally kicking myself for being so truthful in my answering. Why couldn't she have just asked my other friends about what had occurred last weekend. She could have just asked that loudmouth, Irene Dawson, who was a terrific storyteller when it came to spine-tingling tales, or Thomas Lutz, the horror game fanatic. Why did it have to be me, Midori Sayuko the awkward new kid?
Even though I had just turned thirteen, I was still the smallest one in most my classes. Even in the first grade, I was pretty much a runt. I nearly didn't make it out of the fourth grade, not because of my grades, which were excellent, but because the teachers thought I wasn't "mature" enough for the fifth. Even my parents got so concerned by my short size that they took me to several doctors, who all pronounced me as normal. I was just short, not destined to be a midget.
Shortly after my family moved to Hogarth's Gap, I adopted a hard-edged Punk look so people would think twice about pushing me around. My older twin sisters, fourteen at the time, were off to high school so they weren't going to be with me as I navigated that zany, often unpredictable jungle known as middle school. Because of my choice of fashion and music, people called me "emo" and "goth" even though I don't have the angst-ridden attitude of those moody groups. They even called me mean, stuck-up and ice-cold, because I never smiled. I do smile, just not every freakin' second of the day! They just never took the time to say hi and get to know me better...but then Gwen Barry did and now she was my best friend. Now all of a sudden everyone wanted to talk to me. So I went from a Lisa Simpson type-loser who was smart and used to being ignored to being the friend of one of the most popular girls at school. Now this popular girl would like to hear about the weekend that was going to haunt me for the rest of my natural life.
Yet I felt I had to tell it in order to get this weight off my chest. I didn't want to go through life seeing shrinks and taking a whole mess of meds.
So at a less cramped table in the cafeteria, I started telling Gwen my tale. And the weird part was that everyone stopped talking and started listening. Now I don't have a very loud voice; throughout elementary school, people were always telling me to speak up. But somehow my voice penetrated the sea of general conversation in that huge auditorium, cutting through it like a knife through butter. Was it the gods, some spirit or the way that room was built that caused that weird acoustic effect, who knows? All I know was that people were listening.
Two—The New House
Last year, my great-aunt Cecilia on my dad's side of the family passed away, and after months of legal stuff, my family finally got to move into her large, cabin-style house.
You probably heard of my great-aunt; she came from a prominent Nye family in Faire Haven. Unlike other ultra-rich families, the Ziiwis didn't throw big lavish parties and act all pompous and stuff. They liked to perform secret works of philanthropy, such as donating money for animal and human hospitals and shelters. They always performed their deeds in secret. Generosity and moderation were what the Nye were most known for.
But getting back to my story, our new place had lots of space, way better than the cramped little bungalow we had back in L. A. I was so glad I finally had a room all to myself, although I still had to share the upstairs bathroom with my really annoying older sisters and my freakin' little, nine-year-old brat of a kid brother.
The real trouble didn't start until eighteen months later. My parents had recently cleared out the basement, converting it into a rec room.
Now this wasn't your standard, creepy as hell, multi-room basement you often see in numerous horror movies. It was rather a small yet cozy room big enough for a large couch, a small refrigerator, a computer and TV with VCR and DVD player.
There was also a black rotary telephone on the far wall near the washer and dryer, and then there was the Bell. Now this was something Great-Aunt Cecilia rigged up, probably after watching The Silence of the Lambs; she was getting rather hard of hearing anyway. This device consisted of an old-fashioned fire bell that was mounted at the head of the stairs and was hooked to the wiring connected to the doorbell. Whenever someone was in front ringing the doorbell, it would activate the Bell, alerting anyone in the basement of visitors. In fact, the damned thing was so loud, it could be heard throughout the house. Its clanging finally drove my mom up the wall so she had my dad muffle the hammer thingie with duct tape. Now instead of clanging, it made a muffled "clunk" like...well, a wooden bell underwater.
There were seven of us hanging out in the basement that fateful Friday. Eight if you counted the only nonhuman, Milo Kitten, who (over my mom's objections) decided to call the Sayuko household his new home. We had the house to ourselves since my parents had taken my brother Yoichi to a kid-friendly Halloween movie at the Bijou Theater downtown.
Thomas Lutz had commandeered my computer and was now playing some online horror game. He had this tendency for shrieking and kicking the table whenever he got scared. Most notably when reading the infamous tale of the Bong Chong Dong ghost.
Irene Dawson, the hyperactive beatnik redhead and wannabe actress and artist, was on the phone with her geeky cousin, making plans for that haunted house they were putting together, one that was going to be WAY cooler than the Hogan's Gap High School one.
The Twin-Team- Jeffery and Ethel Mahr (fraternal) and Oyuki and Mai (identical)- had just found a Ouija Board. Since the planchette was missing, they were now using the TV remote as a substitute.
I, on the other hand, was sacked out on the couch, exhausted from a long day's work of homework and band practice. While I tried to catch up on some Zs, Milo sat on my head and groomed himself. Fortunately for me, I could sleep through just about anything, including non-stop middle-school chatter.
Thomas: [tapping furiously at the keyboard] "AAAAAAAH! It's the maniac! Make him go away! Make him go away!" [girlish screams]
Irene: "Huh?" [still on the phone]"No, we're not watching a horror movie. That's just Thomas playing Home Sweet Asylum2. Hey, I just realized something- we are gonna need to get the word out on this house house thing, maybe have Marie do a bunch of flyers. She's hella cool at doing creepy stuff."
Ethel: [intoning solemnly] "O, Spirits from the Great Beyond. We have questions for your infinite wisdom."
Oyuki: [thoroughly annoyed] "No, no, NO! It should be like what they do on Ghost Hunters--is there anyone here who wishes to communicate with us?"
Jeffery: [disgusted] "This is SO freakin' lame. Why can't we just use a rock or a paperweight? Why does it have to be a stupid remote control?"
Mai: [flatly] I totally agree. This IS stupid.
Oyuki: [aggravated] "Aargh, would you two quit bitching about the shape of the planchette! The spirits don't freakin' care if it's the actual indicator or something from Sony, just as long as they could move it okay. Now everyone, put your fingers on the 'the planchette' and focus."
Barely a minute passed.
Jeffery: [doing his rather lame Eminem impression] "Yeeeeeeeeeeaaa! Fo-cus-sing on de shnizzle. Yeeeeeeeaaaaa! Uh-huh!"
Ethel: [sternly] "Quiet! Now, do as you're told! Lest ye incur the wrath of the Head Medium!"
Thomas: "Don't look back! Don't look back!! DON'T LOOK BACK!!! YYYYAAAAAHHHHH! How da fwak did he get in here?!"
Irene: [doubtfully] Mm-hmmm...a pile of rusty sardine cans? Mmm-mmm, Ira, that is a rather interesting costume."
There was a sound of the control plllinging, and the TV came on at full volume followed shortly by gasps and yells of dismay.
Oyuki: ARRGHHH! WHAT THE FLARB?!"
Ethel: [totally panicking] "Damn, it's Zalgo! He's come to smack us down and squash us like the measly bugs we are!"
Mai: [quietly] I think I'm going to faint now."
Jeffery: [as soon as he realized he had accidentally hit the power button] "Oh whoops, sorry, that was me. My bad."
Meanwhile, I started to drift slowly off into dreamland.
Four—Ethel Freaks Out
I had some really weird dreams. In one I was being chased through a dark forest by an enormous spider. In another a scaly monster that looked kind of like a sphinx was carrying me around in its mouth. In still another I was being cuddled and cooed at by all these monsters from various horror games. Then I turned into a small black kitty and scampered away.
But in my most vivid dream ever I was back in the basement. It was now dark and gloomy like the inside of a sealed dusty jar; someone had apparently turned off the lights. Milo Kitty was no longer on my head, but I could hear him scurrying around somewhere like a little maniac. However, everyone was in the same spots as before doing the same stuff. Thomas was still at the computer, his slightly goateed face lit up by the glowing screen. Dimly I could just make out Irene still yakking away on the phone. Nearby, the Twin Team were huddled around the Ouija board on the floor, now surrounded by several glow sticks.
Mai now had a notebook and by the light of a single glow stick, she was writing something down. Apparently I was awake in this dream, because I could now see what was going on.
Curious, I got up to see what Mai had just written down. Looking over her shoulder, I could just barely make out the hastily-scrawled words:
Oyuki: Is there anyone here who wishes to communicate with us?
Board: Pointer doesn't move.
Oyuki (loudly): Is there anyone there?
Board: Still no activity.
I looked over to where the planchette/TV remote was positioned and found it had been replaced by Jeffery's glow-in-the-dark, chameleon-shaped pen.
I didn't say anything; I just stood there waiting like everyone else for something to happen.
Minutes crept by and the "pointer" still didn't move. Ethel looked like she was losing interest and Jeffery was making bored-sounding sighs. They probably just wanted to go watch a scary movie or play a video game like more normal people would. I wanted to do something else too. Yet Oyuki was hell-bent determined on getting some spirit contact. The pointer just sat there, not moving one bit even after Oyuki repeated he command several times.
Finally, Oyuki shouted. "For gods' sake! If there's any ghost here just move the freakin' pen thingie already, you stupid morons!"
"DON'T!" Ethel screamed at her.
That was when the glowing green pointer rapidly went round and round the board.
"Oh, good one, Jeff," said Oyuki, glaring at him. "So what's the trick--magnets, remote control?"
"Hey, it's not me," Jeffery insisted, staring at the board.
"Me either," said Ethel hoarsely.
Busily Mai wrote in her notebook: "Pointer moving fast around edge of board; Oyuki still suspects trick."
The rest of the Twin Team just sat in shock keeping their fingers on the circling pointer.
"What would happen if we suddenly took our fingers off the pointer?" Ethel finally asked curiously.
Everyone glanced at her then glanced back at the moving pointer. Then they slowly withdrew their fingers. The pointer then slowly began to rotate like a compass needle as it continued its circular route round the board.
"What the... HOW ON EARTH IS IT DOING THAT?!" Oyuki yelled.
They sat there frozen as the pointer moved itself without anyone guiding it.
"I thought it couldn't work without you touching it," Ethel muttered in a low, frightened voice. "It's impossible..."
We were all in such a daze that we didn't even notice Irene had hung up the phone, and was now standing beside us.
"Hey, you gotta ghost on the line or what?" she asked, making all of us jump. Then turning towards me, she fixed me with an amused glance. "Say, maybe it's your late great-aunt calling up to wish you a Happy Halloween... or to tell you not to waste your time playing around with occult board games."
And that was when I realized I wasn't dreaming at all, that I was fully awake and this was actually happening.
I shrugged. "I don't even know if it is my aunt."
"Well, why don't you ask and find out then?" Irene suggested, giving me a nudge with a sharp elbow. "Way better than staring at it all day!"
"Uh...I don't know if we should," I said hesitantly. "It might be dangerous." The whole Twin Team nodded rapidly in agreement.
"Ahh, you guys are such wusses," Irene scowled. "Hell, then I'll do it."
Turning her attention to the board, she hollered at the top of her lungs. "Hey, you! You in the board, making that lizard pen spin around!! Are you that Cecilia lady that used to live here?!"
The pointer immediately ceased its spinning and went directly to NO. Then it darted back to the middle as if awaiting further questions.
The Twin Team nearly bowled me and Irene over as they crab scuttled away from the board.
"Well, hey, I guess it's not your aunt after all," said Irene brightly. She turned towards me with a mischievous gleam in her oily green eyes. "Hey, maybe we better ask it some questions then, just to REAAAAAAALLLLLYY make sure."
What followed next were gasps of shock and disbelief, and then freaked-out babbling like "NO STOP! YOU'LL GET US INTO EVEN MORE TROUBLE," "YEAH, I AGREE!", "ME TOO!", "I THINK WE SHOULD PLAY SOMETHING ELSE... SOMETHING SAFE... LIKE MONOPOLY OR SCRABBLE."
During all this, Thomas wasn't paying the least bit of attention to us due to him being in total game mode. "Shoo! G'way! Quit following me! I don't have any more treats for you. What the Hell?! Hey, let go my leg! BAD MONSTER, BAD!"
Meanwhile, Irene snorted belligerently. "You guys are all a bunch of wimps. Hell, if I'm going to be asking it questions, I'd start by asking about..."
But what Irene's questions were, we never did find out, for it was at that moment that Milo Kitty, who had been prowling round the room unseen, had suddenly jumped into Ethel's lap.
With a piercing scream, Ethel leaped to her feet. "Oh Gawd! It touched me! It touched me!" she shouted, blundering round like a headless chicken, panicking every time she ran into something.
Fortunately, someone had the good sense to switch on the basement lights before Ethel could do any real damage.
"Oh, great," said Oyuki angrily. She was holding up the now broken Ouija board. "Way to go, Big Foot! Just when we were making contact!"
"You broke my favorite pen!" howled Jeffery as he cradled the splintered fragments. "The pen I got from Busch Gardens!"
"And my concentration!" Thomas shouted across the room. "Now I got to start all over again!"
"I was touched by something squishy," said Ethel tearfully. "Something like ectoplasm!"
"It was a lil' bitty kitty," said Irene. Folding her arms, she tilted her head as she gave Ethel a hard squinty stare. "You freaked out over a puddy tat."
Mai, meanwhile, ignored the quibbling, busy with writing down her "hair-raising" experience.
"Why are you writing stuff down for?" Irene asked, watching her suspiciously.
"Research," Mai muttered.
"Well, you better not include us in it," Irene growled.
"I just write down facts," Mai murmured, keeping her eyes fixed on her notebook. "Not personal stuff."
"Mai, must you write down every embarrassing detail?" Oyuki cried peevishly.
Mai just shrugged and continued her furious note-taking.
Five—The Gray Man Cometh
I had just decided to go to the small fridge and pick out a cold drink when the doorbell rang. Instead of the usual dull "thunk," it made a grating clang.
"Damn, that thing's loud!" Thomas exclaimed.
Ethel gave a small squeak, leaping out of the chair she had been sitting in.
"Hey, I thought your dad had that thing muffled?" Irene glanced at me.
"Hmmm, tape must have come off," I muttered as I hurried towards the stairs.
Halfway up, I heard Ethel saying shakily, "I don't like it, I don't like it one bit. There's something not right about that ringing."
"Jeez Lou-eeze!" Irene grumbled. "Will you get a grip? It's nothing but the freakin' doorbell!"
Ringing again. Whoever it was must be leaning hard on the button. I brushed the curtain aside and peered through the small window. There was no one there. I opened the door and looked out at the fog-bound driveway surrounded by centuries-old hemlock and cedar. Just someone playing a prank, I thought as I closed the door. I started for the basement steps when the ringing resumed with annoying intensity. Again I peered out the door into the drippy, fog-bound stillness. For a moment I thought I caught a glimpse of a figure just beyond a stand of willows. What seemed to be a man, a tall, thin, silvery-haired man in surgeon's garb. And then it was gone.
"Who was at the door?" a voice suddenly asked.
I spun around. Thomas took a quick step backwards, looking at me with raised eyebrows.
"Uh... I guess some kids playing a prank," I said lamely.
Thomas discreetly looked over my shoulder in the direction I was looking at, but of course, there was no one in sight.
"Ethel's hysterical," he informed me as soon as I closed the door. "She's babbling about someone coming...someone called the Gray Man."
As soon he mentioned that name, I felt icy chills racing up and down my back.
"She said that?" I said numbly.
"Yeah," Thomas nodded. "She keeps repeating the same thing over and over--'He's coming! He's coming! Don't let him in! Don't let the Gray Man in!' A note of fear crept into his voice. "You don't she might be possessed?"
I shrugged. "I don't think so," I said as I locked both the deadbolt and knob, "but ghostly possession is the least of our worries, compared to what's going to happen if we don't get out of this house."
"Uhh... Hey... What's going on?" Thomas asked, noticing the worried expression on my face.
"The Gray Man's going on," I explained as I headed for the basement.
"Wait! Who's this Gray Man dude?" My friend grasped me suddenly by the arm. "And what do you mean we have to 'get out of this house?'"
"You're not from around here, so you don't know about the Gray Man," I explained impatiently. "The Nye have legends about this bogeyman that hangs around these parts, that he sometimes comes to people who messed around with black magic and spirit calling. Sometimes he doesn't need to be summoned; he comes when you're most desperate and in trouble up to your eyeballs... or in Ethel's case, most afraid."
"I never heard of this guy before," said Thomas, slowly releasing my arm. "Is he like the Devil?"
I shrugged again. "I don't know, all I know is from stories my dad and grandma told me. If you see him even at a distance, you acknowledged his presence, and then he can make his next move."
"Wha... what is his next move?" my friend asked in a small, stammering voice.
"Then he gets in your house," I replied. And then leaning closer, I whispered, "And if you don't run away immediately when you start feeling ice-cold, he'll take three very important things that belong to you...things that you can't live without."
"Wha... wha... what kind of things?" Thomas asked through chattering teeth. "Like your smart phone, collection of video games and Sandman comics?"
"No, not things that can be replaced," I replied, my voice barely above a whisper. "Things that can't... like your eyes, heart and soul."
"Oh... derp," Thomas gulped.
"Well, actually that's not entirely true," said a well cultured voice behind us.
We both whirled around and stared. Standing in the kitchen doorway was a tall, silvery-haired man dressed in a surgeon's gown and holding a cup of tea.
"You see," he continued gravely, "I only take those three items when there's nothing else worth taking."
The Gray Man's yellowish eyes crinkled with amusement as we stared speechless and wide-eyed.
Then he smiled and said softly, "Care for a cup of tea?"
I don't remember much of anything after that, just that all my friends and I were running down Main Street, too terrified to catch our breath or even to look back.
"And was anything taken from your house?" said one inquisitive student."Yes, I replied. "The small refrigerator, my mom's collection of expensive tea and..." I choked back tears. "...and lil' Milo."
Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart.