(Direct continuation of One can always dream…)
“Well, we have to go investigate.” Rolly’s grin was a little sickly this time around, but he was game.
Mara, not being the type to not go looking, with an aluminum ball bat over one shoulder, for what went bump in the night, agreed. “We’re turning on every damn light as we go, though.” They didn’t exactly creep into the living room, but it was a near thing. They stopped a few steps in. “So, what are we looking for?”
“Uh, cold spots or moldy looking stains on a wall? Shit. I don’t know.”
“Yeah, well, all I know about ghosts and whatnot I learned from watching the same movies as you, so I don’t know. I can’t think of anything else, unless you wanna try to rig up an EMF meter from a remote control car or something.”
“Dude, I couldn’t even fix the toaster.”
Having reached the end of their paranormal store of knowledge, there was nothing left for it but to start. They turned on every light, opened every door and cabinet and cupboard. Mara took a deep breath, fighting a childhood terror of what might be hiding behind the shower curtain, and yanked it back with enough force to pop off one of the plastic hoops. Even though she hadn’t been expecting anything, she still shuddered out a relieved breath when she found the tub empty.
They defied every horror movie trope and stayed together as they cleared the two-level apartment of any odd goings-on. The bedroom they saved for last, standing in the doorway, shoulder to shoulder, leaning in just enough to look around. “So.” Mara nudged him. “Here we be.”
“Yup, here we be.”
Mara took two running steps and jumped up on the bed from a few feet away. “Monsters under the bed gonna grab me!” she yelled. Then she dropped down to her knees and began sniffing at the blankets and the pillows like a dog.
“The fuck are you doing, Mar?” Rolly asked as he followed her into the room.
“We haven’t seen anything, haven’t felt anything, haven’t heard anything. I was seeing if you could smell something. Isn’t there a thing about sulfur, like you smell it if you’re being haunted?”
“No, that’s demons, you can smell sulfur if there’s demons. I thought you could smell oranges or something.”
Mara laughed. “No, you smell oranges if you have the Shining, Jacky Boy. Doesn’t matter though,” she added as she crab-walked off the other side of the bed. “I can’t smell anything.”
Rolly was peering into the little half-bath off their room, peeking behind the door, looking under the sink. Nothing. He started to turn away, but looked back and walked a few steps closer to the mirror. In the bottom corner, there was a small, smudged fingerprint. Way too small to belong to his hand, or to Mara’s. “Hey, Mar, come here a sec please.”
“I think you should come here first,” she called back. “Like, now would be cool.” Her voice was more confused than frightened, but you could hear the note of hysteria surfing right under that sound wave. “Yup, right now.”
She was standing by the window, a crooked finger pulling down a slat of the blinds, looking out onto the street. Something outside had her more freaked out than anything that had happened so far because the eyes she turned towards Rolly as he crossed the room were huge and stark. She stepped back to let him walk up and take her place.
It was black outside. Not just plain black though. Hulking trees on lawns were solid black with watery black shadows and shades of grey leaves; the light spitzing from the street lamps was a silvery-grey, all the same mono-chromatic color scheme, like a black and white photograph. The world wasn’t static like a photograph though. There was a haze that blurred the corners of things, and a thin fog was snaking along the ground, as far as he could see.
The humming came from directly behind them this time.
Mara spun around faster than thought and caught just a glimpse, around knee level, of an amorphous shape that faded even as she tried to mentally record details. Her heart was pounding and she flattened her palms against the wall behind her, leaving sweaty palm prints. “Holy shit holy shit holy shit.” She bent over, hands on her knees, taking deep breaths until her tunnel vision began to widen again.
Rolly slumped on the floor at her feet, doing some deep breathing of his own, keeping an eye out in case she got dizzy. What he had seen outside the window had unnerved him even more than that stupid fucking humming. It was the same street view he’d seen for the past five years, everything where it belonged, and all of it so incredibly wrong. He sat up suddenly, and realized that the major underlying cause for his growing unease was the lack of noise.
He stood again, turning back to the window. They lived on a block full of apartment buildings, shops, fast food joints, there was always noise, always. Right now, there was nothing. “Mar, I really can’t begin to explain any single thing that is happening right now. I’m tweaked out a little bit, here.” He looked out again, looking more closely at the fog. It undulated in swirls and whorls, snaking under and around and over a bench at the little corner park. It didn’t seem to be dissipating at all, though, as if it had no intention of just blowing through town.
“Right. We’ve gotta open the window.”
“Rolly, are you one hundred percent that’s what we have to do? Because I’m not one hundred percent.” She growled at herself and turned around. “We do gotta, of course we gotta, we gotta open the window because some batshit shit is happening and we’re here and we one hundred percent gotta.”
So she opened the window.
Rolly pulled the cord and drew the blinds all the way up, and they stood for a moment watching through the screen. There were still no sounds, no cars stopping and starting and blatting their horns, no doors shutting or cop sirens. A skitchy sound, an under-sound, he couldn’t think of any other way to describe it, seemed to carry flatly on a breeze that he couldn’t feel. He clicked the latches on either side of the frame and slid the screen up so he could stick his head out into the air.
Mara made a little noise in her throat at his side, grabbing onto his shirt and wrapping it around in her fist. He glanced over. “Hey baby, if some crazy ass flying gargoyle comes out of nowhere and tries to yoke you up I’m not letting you go without a fight.”
“Really Mara? A gargoyle?”
“You telling me you think that’s out of the realm of possibilities at the moment? Whatever, fuck you, I’m holding on. Look.” She held on tighter, bent her knees and braced herself, just in case.
Gargoyles. Jesus. He planted both hands firmly on the windowsill and leaned out into the night.
Part 2 of a story inspired by my dude telling me that he was getting sick and tired of me humming like a creepy little kid in my sleep.