An unseen and unknown place where once a family lived and laughed and cried.
Alice and Bill seldom returned, especially at night.
Even the light of the moon turned its cold face against the deepest shadows. A chill breeze stirred the floor for a moment to lift a dance of old newspapers and unpaid bills.
“Pity it’s not a proper full moon and then we could be really scary,” said Alice. She let out a long wolf howl that cut through the cold night air. It came back with an echo that made them both jump.
Then, more softly Alice said, “We didn’t come here to scare ourselves. We need to be quiet. They might be here any time. We should hide.
It was not themselves they had come here to scare. They had come for the silly Ghost-Hunters. These had told anyone who would listen that they would spend a whole night in the old haunted house. They seemed fair game, a bunch of rich kids who were just asking for it.
“It’s good to do things like this together,” whispered Alice, unexpectedly.
The Ghost-Hunters were easy to spot from far off. They had flash-lights with new batteries and loud voices. They carried more warm clothes than they could ever need and a folding table with chairs. Once inside, they were soon busy to setting themselves in a tight circle around the table.
One of the Ghost-hunters looked some years older than the others. She carried an air of knowing what she was doing in a loose flowing robe with a home-made look about it. Clearly enjoying a sense of occasion, she spoke slowly with self importance.
Alice whispered partly to herself and partly to Bill, “Just listen to Madame. Knowledge is power.”
As they watched, Madame solemnly directed the way the table was to be laid out. She wished to be seated facing to the east. The table was properly aligned using a small compass set into the end of her flash-light. The table was draped with a white cloth embroidered with strange symbols. A single white candle was solemnly lit dead center. Seats were taken and the Ghost-Hunters were directed to put out all their flash-lights. Now it was time to link hands in the flickering candlelight and to be sure to keep the circle unbroken until all was done.
When everything was ready, Madame read aloud and at length from a bundle of old papers that looked like photocopies of photocopies. Reaching the end of the last sheet she raised her voice and brought her incantation to a close with the solemn words, “Grant us this day a visitation.”
Quiet in his hiding place, Bill said nothing but nudged Alice with his elbow, knowing she was determined not to laugh.
Alice called loud and resonant with just a single letter ‘W’.
Perhaps it was the acoustics of a building with no soft furnishings. Perhaps it a sense of occasion. Whatever the reason, it came out barely human.
From that point on there was little danger of the Ghost-Hunters’ circle becoming broken. By now, they were holding on to each other very tightly in the light of the single candle. One girl closed her eyes tightly. Other kids looked around not at all sure what they wanted to see.
To her credit, Madame gave no indication of being frightened or even surprised. “Thank you,” she said, “you have given us a ‘W’ what more do you have for us?”
After a painfully long wait, a next letter ‘O’ followed from Alice. Allowing plenty of time for dramatic pauses, she followed up with ‘L’ and then ‘F’.
“WOLF, you are welcome to our circle,” Madame spoke now with the confidence and authority of someone who had once been doubted but had now been proven right.
“Do you have something else for us?”
Bill and Alice looked at each other and nodded. Oh yes, they had something else. Alice let out her very-best-ever wolf call. It was like before but more. This time it echoed all around from the darkest corners with a very real sense of evil.
For the Ghost-Hunters it was a moment in time that could never be undone, never be forgotten. Bill thought one of the younger ones looked as if he might have wet himself.
But even now, Madame calmly carried on. She called out gently, “WOLF, you are a troubled soul. Don’t be afraid. Go to the light and be at peace.”
“Look for the light”, she called again, louder this time. “Trust me, it is there for you. It’s there for all of us. It is always there, you only have to look for it.”
“I feel strange about this now,” Alice whispered.
Bill reminded her that the silly Ghost-Hunters deserve what they get.
“No, it’s not that, I can see a light.”
At first it was only Alice that saw this. Soon, Bill and all the Ghost-Hunters could see it too.
This light grew in strength until tightly closed eyes could do little to keep it out. Along with it came a bone-shaking rumble, deep down on the lowest threshold of hearing.
Bill wanted none of this, but for Alice this was something she must do. A time to go. Her time.
So Alice went to the light and then she was gone.
At once, Bill knew she was gone forever. Now, he had never felt so very alone in all of his life, or indeed in all these strange and troubled times that had come after it.
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Colin W. Campbell
Colin W. Campbell writes short fiction and poetry in Sarawak on the lovely green island of Borneo and faraway in Yunnan in southwest China.
www.colincampbell.org and www.south-east-asia.asia