Sci Fi Media is hosting the Scare Me Blogfest! I'm cheating a little-- this isn't a true story, though it's based on the numerous tourist-y haunted houses I've been through, plus an abandoned house I was sure was haunted when I was a kid. I now give you my shortest and creepiest short story ever. Please keep in mind this was written in an hour and a half and has not been vetted by my critique group, so there are no guarantees. ;)
The front entry smelled of decay.
I lifted the voice recorder. “Nice sensory effects on entrance,” I said. “Sets the creep-factor high for the rest of the tour.”
The only light came from the flashlight I’d been issued. I stepped forward and a floorboard creaked. A gust of wind blew in from behind me and the front door slammed shut. I grinned. Real Hauntings, Inc. spared no expense. Built a whole freaking house just to grind it down to abandoned-slash-haunted specs, installed expensive effects, and apparently stashed fresh road-kill somewhere to get that nasty smell.
I couldn’t believe I was getting paid for this.
I swung my light around, admiring the warped staircase and faded family pictures. A shattered mirror hung to my right above a dusty wooden table. The mirror was on my list of “must-checks,” so I wandered over. The spider-web cracks in the glass distorted my face. I shined the flashlight under my chin, gave an impressive growl, and waited for the next haunt to cue.
Rippling in the warped reflection, a pale shadow crossed behind me.
“…he killed me…”
The voice whispered right into my ear. I jumped, then frowned at the goosebumps on my arms. “Impressive sound effects,” I said into the voice recorder. “Not exactly sure how you made it sound so close, and not from a speaker. Extra points for the unexplainable.”
A moan interrupted my reporting. “…please…” The girl sounded desperate. And terrified.
And way too freakin’ close to my ear.
I rubbed the shivers away. I’d laughed my way through the haunted house that sent Paul McBride screaming back out the entrance. This place was real chills, not just cheap tricks, but that didn’t mean the rest of the guys on the baseball team had to find out it’d gotten a rise out of me.
Moving on. Blood-spattered kitchen, here I come. I stepped down the hall.
More screech than word, the sound sent me whirling around. A wisp of air, like a hair brushing my cheek, made me flinch. A thin, foggy shape drifted up the stairway in front of me. For a moment, I thought I saw brown eyes.
“...up here…killed me…”
The shape faded and I swallowed. Their recorded cues must be off-kilter. I was supposed to take the tour like any other guest—wander the house to learn the story and get fully jitter-fied before heading upstairs where the supposed ghost had been killed in her bedroom by a jealous boyfriend.
“Minus points for a lame story,” I whispered. I blinked and realized I’d forgotten to hit the record button on the machine in my hand.
Scratch the bloody kitchen, I was following the pseudo-ghost.
I tiptoed up the stairs, which only gave a few quiet squeaks. Nice. The silence built tension better while heading to a haunted murder scene. At the top of the stairs, I let go of the banister. My hand ached from gripping it so hard. The rotten flesh smell was stronger up here.
A narrow hall stretched out in front of me. I played my flashlight on the walls. Long sections of wallpaper had been torn away like someone had clawed at them while being dragged down the hallway. A dark smudge marred a gray doorframe.
The voice came from the end of the hall this time, and the handle of the far left bedroom rattled.
“Right,” I said, surprised as my voice cracked. Stupid dust. I cleared my throat. “Ready or not, here I come.”
I crossed the hall and flung open the door. My recorder and flashlight fell from my fingers and I choked on the rancid air. The flashlight rolled from side to side, throwing light over the grisly scene. The overthrown mattress was drenched in blood. Dark stains spattered the stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh in the corner. Tendrils of dank, cold air wrapped around me.
“This is…” I gasped. “This is…awesome?”
“Here.” Her voice came loud and firm now, from my right.
And there she was. I let out a squeak.
She didn’t float above the floor, though she was translucent. A ratty t-shirt and short jean shorts was different from the flowing nightgown I’d expected, though the torn throat and bloody hands were plenty grotesque. Hair pulled into a ponytail, and brown eyes. Kinda pretty, though skinny enough to be almost skeletal.
“Here.” She pointed at the folding closet doors next to her.
Half-ashamed and half-thrilled at the heebie-jeebies roiling in my gut, I recovered my flashlight and stepped toward her. She moved back, and I opened the closet.
“Ughhh.” I fell to my knees.
It didn’t matter how good their special effects were. A dead body was unmistakably a dead body.
The face—the body—the freakin’ dead brown eyes of the ghost girl stared up at me from her decaying, throat-slit corpse. I scrambled back, wheezing.
“Hurry. My mom.”
I looked around to see her pointing anxiously at the door. The exit. Her eyes—how could they look so alive when she was totally dead on the floor!—pleaded with me.
Hurry. Run. Tell somebody there was a dead girl sprawled in the closet. I ran through the hall and tripped my way down the stairs, finally wrenching open the front door.
“Jonas! Went well, I see.”
I jerked to a stop on the front walk. Mr. Walker, head of Real Hauntings, Inc. stood under the streetlight where I’d left him, leaning on the ratty picket fence.
“You—she—dead…” I rocked back and forth on the sidewalk. “She’s dead, someone’s really dead up there!”
He smiled and made a note on a clipboard. “Excellent. She’s doing her job perfectly.”
“Of course. She’s our ghost.”
“Who…who is she?”
He pulled out his cell and began texting. “Hm? Oh, just a runaway we found. On her way home, actually. She’d just learned her mother had cancer, so it was perfect timing to abduct her. Unfinished business and all that.”
He pocketed his phone and smiled, the lamplight shadows turning his nose beaky. “We couldn’t kill her until we brought her here, naturally, or her spirit might have bonded with another structure. We should be able to remove the body tonight. It’s been sitting long enough to anchor her here.”
What in the name of all that was holy and unholy...ah, crap, I was going to puke. “You killed her. To make a real ghost.”
“I’ll turn you in.” I stumbled back, ready to run. “Tell everyone what you did.”
“That sounds like some excellent unfinished business.” He studied me carefully. “We’ll have to make sure to mutilate the face. We don’t want anyone around here to recognize you.”
From behind, hands closed around my biceps and held me against a hard torso. I yelped.
Mr. Walker smiled. “We need the boyfriend ghost, too. We’re staging the story as a murder-suicide.”
I barely had the strength to squirm as a plastic bag swept over my face.
“No,” I whispered. Thin plastic clung to my open mouth.
“Congratulations, Jonas Cray,” said Mr. Walker. “You’re about to become a prop for Real Hauntings.”