Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Girl in the Ghost House - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Evelyn was not what most grown ups would call a well adjusted child. What they meant by that was that Evelyn was the type of little girl who did not care very much for television, who didn’t do with nonsense such as boogeymen, and whose very absolute favorite thing in the world was climbing out of her bed at night, opening her bedroom window, and escaping to explore the forgotten houses.

There was a row of them. They’d been built by a millionaire who had been sure that everyone would want a house on the land he owned. But then the city had put a graveyard up right next to his houses. And no one wanted to live next to a graveyard. Except for Evelyn’s parents. Because really, most grown ups would not call her parents well adjusted either.

Evelyn’s parents were not the type of grown ups who forbade her from playing in the abandoned houses. Instead, when they first moved in, Evelyn’s mother had gone one night to explore the houses herself. And then the next day Evelyn’s father had taken the screen off her window and built the steps that went down from her bedroom to the garden. And they had put up enough trees and bushes that she could run between without being seen. Because Evelyn’s parents thought it was a good thing for Evelyn to play and a good thing for her to explore. And because they had both already checked and knew that there was nothing dangerous in the abandoned houses.

And of course they were wrong.

It was on an ordinary night of exploration that Evelyn came to the yellow house with the number 23 on it. And that Evelyn walked up the creaking steps. And that Evelyn grabbed the old, rusted door knob and pulled the old door away on its squeaking hinges. She stepped into the house and the dust motes rose into the air.

Evelyn never left her room without her flashlight. She turned it on and shone a beam of light into the house. The house looked just like all the other abandoned houses looked inside. Except this one wasn’t empty. The old house was filled with old furniture. The walls weren’t bare. They had faded and peeling wallpaper on them. There were old paintings and pictures and a big chandelier that was covered in spider webs. Someone had lived in the old house. A long time ago.

Evelyn shone her flashlight around as she stepped inside and let the door close behind her. It didn’t swing shut like the other houses. It slammed and the slam echoed into the darkness above. She let her light fall on the door just in time to see the key in the door turn. Evelyn did not realize that the doors of the abandoned houses had keys. She pulled the key out of the door and placed it in her pocket. That was when Evelyn heard the singing.

It was coming from upstairs. Someone else was in the house.

At first Evelyn thought about her parents. They had taught her how to explore safely. They had also taught her that it was impossible to never speak to strangers, and instead the best way of speaking to a stranger was to come across as pleasant and well mannered while still avoiding danger. Evelyn could just leave. She could unlock the door and go back home.

But where was the fun in that.

The stairs creaked as she walked up to where the singing came from. One of the stairs was missing a slat and went down into the inky darkness below the stairs. And as she stepped over it, she felt her whole body get goosebumps. In fact, it was so cold she could see her breath fog in front of her. And then the next moment, as she stepped on the other side of the gap in the stairs, she was fine again. Evelyn knew that this was very odd. And so she stopped and thought about whether she should just go back down the stairs. Whether she was in any real danger.

And she decided that it must have just been a draft and that she was still fine. So Evelyn continued walking up the stairs. The top of the stairs ended in a very short hallway. On her left and on her right were doors. And ahead of her was a third door, this one outlined in blue light from underneath. The singing was coming from the blue lit door. Evelyn swallowed and wondered what kind of person came into abandoned houses at night and sang.

“Pssst.” A voice came from the door on her right and frightened her so much she dropped her flashlight.

Evelyn reached to pick it up and as she stood up the doorway opened up. The room was dark and inside Evelyn could hear a sort of wet, dripping sound. She shined her flashlight into the room. It was a bathroom. That would explain the dripping. There was a massive white tub with lion claw legs and thick copper handles. Above it a shower head came down and at the end of the shower nozzle another drop was forming at the tip, ready to splash down in the bathtub.

“Psst.” Came the voice again and this time she was sure it came from the big bathtub.

“Hello. Is someone there?” Evelyn asked training her light on the tub.

A boy peaked over the edge of the tub. His hair was dark and messy and his face was pale and his eyes were big and grey and almost scary if he didn’t look so scared of her. Evelyn knew that if someone was scared of you, you usually didn’t have to be scared of them. Usually.

“Hi there. My name is Evelyn.” She said as she introduced herself as her parents had taught her, “What’s your name?”

“William. But mother and Maryanne call me Willie.” The boy said still peering over the tub at Evelyn cautiously.

“And which do you prefer, William or Willie?” Evelyn asked, advancing slowly.

“William. Father says a g-growing boy ought not to be coddled.” He raised his head just a bit more as he spoke.

“Well, William. Are you here exploring too?” Evelyn said letting her flashlight’s yellow beam glide over the bathroom surface, “Funny place to sit though. In a bathtub.”

“I’m not exploring.” William said, looking around fearfully, “I’m just. I’m just taking a bath.”

“A bath? In the middle of the night? Here? Why?” Evelyn jumped out of the way as a large white rat scurried past her, “What is that!?”

“Oh, don’t mind Trevor.” The boy let a pale hand float out of the bathtub and scooped the rat up into his hand, “He’s just bringing me back the news of what’s happening in the rest of the house.”

“But.... but he’s a rat. I mean, it’s a rat.” Evelyn was not the sort of girl that put up with nonsense like talking animals.

“So. He’s also my best friend. And friends tell each other things, don’t they?” The boy William looked out of the tub at Evelyn standing in the doorway, “Anyway, Trevor’s the one who saw you come in and told me you were coming up the stairs.”

“Well, and why did Trevor care that I was coming up the stairs?” Evelyn had just about had enough of the boy who sat in a bathtub at all hours of the night in an abandoned house and talked to rats.

“He said you were going towards the Singing Lady’s room. And that you mustn’t.” William fixed his grave eyes on Evelyn. “You must not. You must never go in the Singing Lady’s room or you’ll never leave.”

And then the boy William slid silently beneath the rim of the bathtub. Trevor the Rat sat on the edge and nodded his small whiskered face as if agreeing with William. Evelyn didn’t much care for the way the rat seemed to think it knew everything. Trevor hopped down and scurried across the floor, stopping at the open door to look up at Evelyn and motion with his head. It seemed as if he wanted her to follow him. Trevor went forward a few steps and looked back. Evelyn stepped out of the bathroom and the door shut.

“So, where are you taking me, rat?” She looked down at it with distaste.

Trevor looked up at her and then continued scurrying back towards the stairs. Evelyn was about to step towards the rat when the song behind her suddenly grew louder. She turned slowly on the spot towards the door, the bright blue light coming from around the cracks in the doorjam. The song was getting louder and she felt almost like a hand was grabbing hold of her sweater and pulling her towards the door.

“SQUEAK!” Trevor ran back and tried to grab hold of her bootlace, dragging across the rug as Evelyn kept walking.

Evelyn took one slow step after another. She reached her hand out towards the doorknob. Trevor was getting frantic, running towards the stairs then back to her then back to the stairs. He tried to pull her back but she didn’t even notice him. She placed her hand on the doorknob and the metal was ice cold to the touch. The light around the door pulsed with anticipation. Evelyn was ready to open the door.


She started as the door to her left shook. Someone was pounding from the otherside. Evelyn instinctively took a step back, looking at the door. The knocking started again and she trained her flashlight on the white, chipped wooden frame.

“Excuse me.” Came the voice of a very proper sounding old gentleman. “Pardon me young lady, but would you mind not shining your torch directly at me?”

Evelyn let the yellow pool of light slide down the door and quiver on the spot right in front of it. So that enough light would still be reaching the door. And that’s when she noticed it. Sticking out of the doorknob, right through the keyhole was a small metal pipe. She stepped forward and looked at it closer. It had a small piece of glass at the end.

“What do you think? Charming invention isn’t it? I do so love a good mechanism.” The disembodied voice kept talking, “I’m currently working on something that may enable me to walk around soon! I daresay, maybe even leave the house! Haha!”

“Who are you?” Evelyn said leaning forward towards the small metal pipe coming out of the doorknob, “Where are you?”

“Ah! Yes! Of course! What was I thinking? Where are my manners!” And here the voice stopped and the metal tube slid back into the keyhole as it said, “Please, if you wouldn’t mind unlocking my door?”

Evelyn was about to ask how she was supposed to unlock the door. When she realized. She had the key. Could the key from the downstairs door be the same one to unlock the upstairs door? She stepped forward, not noticing Trevor the rat scurrying back and forth shaking his head. She slid the key into the lock and turned it to the left. The bolt in the door slid solid and the key in her hand became cold.

She barely pulled the key out before the door creaked open. Evelyn swallowed. Inside dusty wooden stairs led upward into the darkness that was the attic. The small metal tube slid back into a slightly bigger section of tube. And that was when she figured it out.

“It’s like a miniature telescope!” And her flashlight gleamed off the brass pipes that led up into the darkness.

“Oh! Oh yes,” The voice said, and Evelyn could finally tell that it was coming from the telescope, “This is my telephonoscope. It lets me see and hear from all the way up here in the attic. Please, follow it up. I would very much like to meet you young lady.”

Evelyn looked back at the blue glowing door. And thought that she would just take a peak upstairs and meet the kind-sounding old gentleman in the attic before going to see what lay behind the blue lit door. The stairs creaked and Trevor was scurrying back and forth in anguish before placing his small paw over his eyes and shaking his head. Then he ran back to the bathroom to report what had happened to the boy William in the bath in frantic squeaks.

Meanwhile Evelyn was walking up the creaking stairs. The darkness was thicker and she began to wonder what the old gentleman was doing in the attic to begin with. Evelyn though that he must be William’s grandfather because they were both in the house in the middle of the night and they both seemed to be odd people. She hoped that the old gentleman wouldn’t be as fond of rats as his grandson.

The tube Evelyn was following was now as thick as the handle of her flashlight and she thought that the attic would have to be close. She took one more step, and for a moment, caught her breath. Because there weren’t anymore stairs and for a moment she thought she was falling, before she stumbled forward into the attic. At least she thought it was where the attic would be. But instead Evelyn was standing on grass. There were trees and their branches reached up and at the top she thought she could see stars shining through the branches and leaves.

“But, that’s impossible.” Evelyn crossed her arms, “I saw the house from the outside! It had a roof and a proper attic! This is all some kind of nonsense. Maybe even just a dream!”

A heavy chair on the other side of the glade/room turned with a creak and the old man faced her, “Oh no my dear, I’m afraid this is no dream.”

And then Evelyn saw what the old gentleman had in his hands. It was a massive bow made of bronze, with levers and gears at it’s base and small pulleys and winches at its top and bottom. The old gentleman pulled a solid golden arrow out of the couch and drew it back as far as he could, the gears spinning and the thread on the bow whirring as it ran through the pulleys. It made a loud click as the arrow war ready, the string humming with tension.

“What are you––?” Evelyn couldn’t finish her sentence before the old man let go and the bow shot out a shower of sparks from its gears as the arrow was release and shot forward like a bolt of pure gold. Evelyn just had enough time to dive out of the way as the arrow cut through the air where she had stood, quivering in the wooden paneling of the doorframe.

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