By Willow Taylor
Just moved in my
new house today.
Still I made up
my mind to stay.
I stood right
still and I did the freeze.
Say yes I'll be
here when the mornin' comes.
In my kitchen my
stove was a-blazin' hot.
From outer space
there sat a man
He ate the raw
meat right from my hand.
Say, yes I'll be
here when the mornin' comes.
"So all we have to do is spend a whole night, dark to full light, in this house?"
"Yes," said Steven Cooper. "That's all I want you to do, and the million is yours."
"So what's the catch?" Shaper asked, tossing hair out of his eyes, and looking up the hill at the graceful lines of the house in question.
"Weren't you listening?" Victor snorted, lighting a clove. "The place is haunted. Most people can't spend more than a few minutes there. The best ghost hunters they could find didn't last an hour."
"No problem. We'll do it." Victor smiled, and Shaper grabbed his scarf and yanked him backwards, then grinned at Mr. Cooper.
"One second," the risen said pleasantly. "I must converse with my associate here." He dragged Victor a few steps away and pinned him to the wall with a hand.
"Are you out of your MIND?" he hissed. "Spend a night in a haunted house? What gave you that damn fool idea?"
"First - " Victor said, prying Shaper's fingers off his coat. "We have no money, and this gets us a million. Second, since we have no money, we have no place to stay tonight, and it's going to be a blizzard."
He jerked his thumb at the horizon where gray clouds built up on each other like mounds of evil black whipped cream.
"I don't think that's a good enough reason, Vic."
"Aw... is Shaper-wapie afwaid of ghosties?"
"Too bad. Don't worry, I'll protect you."
"I'm not going! Go in on your own!"
"If it isn't a couple, it doesn't count!" snapped Victor.
"Couple!?" chirped Shaper, and he batted his eyelashes at his friend, anger and fear momentarily forgotten. "Why Victor honey, I didn't know you cared..."
"I didn't mean it like that," Victor growled hotly. "It has to be a group of two or more, and if one person leaves, the entire deal is forfeit." He ducked under Shaper's arm and walked back to Mr. Cooper.
"We don't have to break the ghost do we? You know, drive them out?" Steven looked down at the wiry, dark, stringy haired, sallow faced man before him, who looked like he was several hours short of sleep - and burst out laughing. As Angel's face flitted from confusion to further annoyance, he lost control of his knees, and ended up on the ground, laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.
"Is something funny?" the short dark man asked coldly, as Shaper started to snicker in sympathy.
Steven managed to get a hold of himself, straighten his scarf, and stand up.
"I'm truly sorry, Mr. Shelly, it's just that..." Looking at Victor's thin, serious and annoyed face, he almost started laughing again. "It's just that, well so many people have died trying, the idea that you..." He couldn't help it, he burst out laughing again. "I mean, you break the ghosts, it's just so..." He braced himself on his knees and tried to keep from laughing. Angel blew out a long thin trail of smoke and frowned. Then he turned and started to walk down the street.
"C'mon Shaper, we got a few wood boxes to fill before night hits," Victor fumed grabbing the lapel of Shaper's coat as he passed, and dragging him down the street towards the house in question.
"Good luck!" Steven called at their retreating backs.
"I'd like to say, one more time, that I don't like this," growled Shaper from behind an armload of wood.
"What was that Shaper, I didn't hear you," Victor said pleasantly, stacking the wood up. Shaper dumped the pile of wood on his friend's foot, then bellowed.
"I SAID I DON'T LIKE THIS!"
"I hadn't noticed," winced the dark haired man, rolling the logs off his foot. "You can feel free to stay in the woodshed, if you want, but this house looks pretty tight." He opened his pack of cloves, looked at it, and sighed, before closing it again and returning it to his pocket. Fourteen. This was gonna be a hell of a night.
"I cannot believe you're seriously considering going into a haunted house without even a full pack of smokes."
"Ech." Victor went back to the woodshed to get another load of wood.
"And another thing..." Shaper said, staring at the walls of the shed, "Doesn't it bother you that there's all this chopped wood, and no axes anywhere?"
"Ech," Victor said again and pointed at the ceiling, before gathering up an armload and heading back to the enclosed porch. Shaper looked up and gaped - stuck into the ceiling of the wood shed was a collection of no less than a dozen axes, of different sizes and shapes.
Outside, the wind was blowing fiercely, and the empty branches of the shade trees dragged themselves against the walls. Victor looked around the room, and banked the fire he'd just gotten started properly.
"There we go," he said, whistling between his teeth. "Nothing like a cheerful fire on a day like this."
"I hate you," Shaper growled, glaring at Victor.
"Oh come on..."
"No, really, deep abiding loathing. Someday, I'm going to find something that scares you, and rub your face in it."
"I'll be waiting." Victor rocked back on his hand, and the snow pressed in, darkening the windows further, till the only real light was coming from the fire place.
"Well at least nothing's happened yet," Shaper breathed, relaxing a hair.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said a hollow voice. "Tut tut people, let's get started shall we?"
"VICTOR!" shrieked Shaper as his chair raised up off the ground.
"They're just trying to scare you."
"Oh don't be such a baby."
"I'm not a baby, I just don't like ghosts!" He leapt out of the chair, and landed with a thump on the ground. "Could you not be so calm about this!" He threw himself down on the couch, and the cushion threw him off.
"Excuse me," breathed a voice. "I was sitting there." The cushion flipped over revealing a thick, reddish brown stain pouring down it. Shaper whimpered, and Victor shifted slightly to one side. The risen wrapped his arms around his legs, and stared into the fire.
"Oh man, oh man," he muttered, poking at it. "Crank already, how about some heat?!" The chair that had been in the air set itself down again.
Victor leaned back and crossed his legs at the ankle. "It probably won't," he said at last, as Shaper stuffed the fireplace with wood to try and make the fire burn hotter.
"Burn hotter. You do know ghosts lower the temperature of the room they're in when they're active, right?"
Shaper turned, and glared at Victor. "Uh... yeah, of course I knew that." He stood up with as much dignity as he could muster. "I'm gonna go start a fire in the kitchen. Stoves produce heat better anyway."
Victor watched him go, and settled back into his seat. A voice came over his shoulder.
"Your friend isn't too bright, is he?"
"He misses connections sometimes, yeah."
"He's gonna break hard..." the voice chuckled with relish. "You though... I think you're going to be fun..."
"Could you not break Shaper please?" Victor sighed not turning his face since he heard the slow scrabble and drip behind him, and didn't feel like seeing whatever it was that was talking to him. "I mean, he's hard enough to deal with when he's sane, such as it is."
"Well maybe we'll just invite him to stay then. There's always room for one more..."
Victor leaned back and took a deep breath. "Feel free. I bet he'll be out in a week. You have no idea how annoying he can be."
The ghost at his ear snorted. "Ha. You're so cool you're dead. You don't fool me, 'Victor,'" it chuckled darkly. "You can pretend all you want not to be scared - but we scare everyone."
"Everyone but me." Victor contemplated a clove, and decided to save it a little longer.
"Not yet. We just have to find out what scares you is all." A cold breeze, almost a touch caressed his cheek. He ignored it. The touch came again harder this time. "We will. This is our house..." The voice got deeper, throatier, like it had been screaming all night. "And we are going to keep it that way!"
There was a crash from the other room, and the richer scream of a human throat.
"Fuck!" screeched Shaper. "Get away from there! Ah! Oh my god! No! Don't do that! Eeee!!" the last cry was choked off in a squeak. Victor sighed, and waited. When Shaper didn't appear, he heaved himself to his feet, and wandered into the kitchen, not bothering to step over a bloodstain that flowed down the stairs like a crimson runner to puddle at the bottom, blocking the way into the second hallway. He walked down the dark hallway, not bothering to focus on the light at the end, since that would only make the darkness of the walls more pronounced.
Shaper had lit every lamp he could find in the kitchen, making bright pools of golden light on the walls. He'd managed to ignore the bloody handprints, and the amazing array of cutlery, and get the stove started. The risen had even been calm enough to put a pot of water on to make tea.
"Well, that's not something you see every day," Victor said banally.
"Shut up and get me down," squeaked Shaper. "I don't get a lot of use out of it, but I'd like to..."
Angel reached over and removed the blade from just barely under Shaper's balls. The dark haired youth had avoided it by practically levitating on his pointed boot tips - and been forced to stay that way. A cleaver was stuck into the wall beside his head. He closed his bright red eyes and slid down the wall, taking shallow breaths.
"This was not a good idea," he whimpered, eyes squeezed shut. Closing his eyes wasn't very good thing either. With his eyes shut he could feel the presence of people, like the house was having a party, and every square inch was full. He covered his head with his hands. He heard Victor moving about the kitchen, picking things up, and the sound of a knife being slid into a knife block. Then there was a pounding cracking noise, repetitively going on and on. At last he opened his eyes, and saw Victor pounding something in a mortar and pestle the size of someone's head.
"Coffee," he said, when he saw Shaper looking. "You look like you can use it."
"Couldn't I just go to sleep and wake up in the morning?" Shaper asked plaintively. "I mean, nothing says we have to stay awake the whole twenty four hours, does it?"
"Nope, nothing says that." Victor admitted.
"You don't think that's a good idea, do you?"
"Can't say that I do." He poured the powdered beans onto a clean white cloth that was spread on the counter beside him.
"Are you going to tell me why you don't or are you going to be all withdrawn and laconic?"
"Would you rather I laughed at the expression on your face when I came in?" Angel looked up, putting down the pestle and grinned at Shaper. Shaper glared at him. Beside his hands, splayed on the counter, the heavy pestle rose up and continued bumping up and down. Lift-crash-lift-crash-lift-crash. "Enough of that, eh?" Victor grabbed the pestle back and began grinding properly, until the beans were powder. Shaper stayed with his back to the wall, until he felt something cold and slimy go down the back of his shirt.
"Eeeah!!" He jumped up and whirled, staring at the wall, where a sort of whitish green stuff was oozing out of the wall. "What the hell is that?" he demanded.
"Ectoplasm I bet," Victor said, drawing the corners of the cloth up and binding it into a ball. He went over to the stove and dropped the ball into the boil pot of water.
"Ectoplasm. Of course, how could I be so stupid, what else could it be..." Shaper said rolling his eyes and crawling out of his shirt - there didn't seem to be anything on it, but he wanted to be sure. "What the FUCK is ectoplasm?"
"Ectoplasm is a physical result of spiritual phenomenon. Mediums make it appear in sťances a lot. It's related to protoplasm, which, nominally, we're all made up of."
A book floated helpfully into the room from the other room. It opened and displayed its contents.
"Right," Shaper said, shying away from the book. "That explains everything.
" "It's also what made the pool of blood in the front hall. It's not real blood."
Shaper looked at the bloody footprints that Victor had tracked in, and shuddered. "Close e-fucking-nough."
"Sure, but try to live on it..." Victor snorted, giving a half smile. "You going to stay in here?" Shaper took a look around the kitchen, with its glorious array of heavy and or sharp objects, and swallowed hard.
"Uhm... where are you going?"
"I thought I'd have a look around, maybe sketch out the floor plan." Victor shrugged, and scratched the back of his neck. "Maybe see if there was a library in here or something."
"Heh..." Shaper said, as the book floated back past them. "Maybe," he suggested a touch hysterically, "you should follow the book, it seems to know where it's going."
"Good thought," Victor said, smiling at Shaper in that evil way of his. "You're adjusting to this just fine." He patted Shaper on the back. The risen gave him a look so dirty it deserved its own rating. Angel didn't seem to notice, strolling away following the floating book.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Haunted House © 2002 by Willow Taylor
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