Hello, all! After yesterday’s little bit of silliness, I decided to try for something actually spooky today. And then it got a bit out of hand when I was writing it last night and now it’s going to be a two- or three- part story… I hope you don’t mind! Here’s the first part, feel free to share the link around and/or let me know what you think in the comments! Enjoy…
Stay the Night (Part 1)
by Eleanor Musgrove
I remember waking up on that fateful day and thinking that the previous night had been the worst of my life. My cosy little flat had been burgled, and to make matters worse, I’d been home at the time. I suppose I’d been fortunate in that they only hit me as much as it took to knock me unconscious, but they cleaned me right out. Those scumbags took everything valuable I had, and smashed the rest. I’d come round the next morning in the wreckage of my life, got the police involved, and then left as soon as their officers had. I didn’t want to stay there, and I didn’t want to face cleaning up. Of course, with no money, no cards and nothing to sell, there weren’t a whole bunch of places I could go. Fortunately, my best friend owns a bar within walking distance, so I dragged myself over there.
“God, Jules, what happened to you?” Roxie slid a beer across the bar without even letting me answer, and I slumped onto a stool with an appreciative grunt.
“Got burgled. Hope this is on the house, Rox, I’ve got nothing.”
“What? That’s terrible! Of course it’s on the house. That bruising’s nasty, have you been to A & E?”
“It’s just a bruise. Besides, I’m not looking for conventional painkillers right now. They got everything. I just want to forget about it.” I took a long swig of my beer to prove my point, and she rolled her eyes.
“Well, stay here so I can keep an eye on you, yeah? Have you eaten today? Take a look at the menu, your lunch is on me.”
“It’s a late lunch.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not quite dinnertime yet. Shut up and pick some food, already.” I gave her my order – I was starving – and settled in for the long haul, grumbling all the while about my worst night ever and even scoring a couple of drinks off other customers as they took pity on me. Roxie’s made no pretence of being a particularly classy joint; everyone here was pretty much united in the opinion that a drink could make anything better and two drinks could do even more for you. That particular day, that meant the charity case of the moment – me – was being bought booze left, right, and centre. Things were looking up.
Several hours later, I was still there and I’d had a couple of drinks. Well, more than a couple. I was pretty far on the drunk side of tipsy, and I still really didn’t want to go home. I was just beginning to wonder if I should ask to stay with Roxie for the night or try to pick someone up and sleep at theirs when a loud conversation caught my attention.
“No way, man. Nah, not even if you paid me.”
“Really? ‘Cos I’ll bet you you can’t do it. Bet nobody can. I’m so sure I’ll give you two hundred quid if you stay there one night.”
“Not likely, I’m not that stupid. Everyone knows that’s an obituary waiting to happen. I’m with Dan on this, no way.”
“Shame. Guess I’ll keep my two hundred then.”
By now, I’d homed in on the small group of slightly sozzled men having the conversation. In fact I’d sidled from bar stool to bar stool until I was sat right by them, which I’m sure I thought was really subtle at the time.
“Or you could bet me. What’s the challenge?” For a moment, the three guys looked at me like they didn’t know what to make of it. Then one of them shrugged.
“Sure, why not? I was just saying to these guys, I’d give someone two hundred quid if they actually managed to spend a whole night in that old abandoned house up Vickery Street.” I frowned; that seemed way too easy.
“Even the estate agents forgot about that place. Why wouldn’t you be able to spend a night there?”
“Because it’s haunted,” one of the others told me flatly, “and once you go in, you’re not coming out with all your limbs, let alone your wits.”
“Really? You’re too scared of ghosts to spend one night in an old house for two hundred quid?” I sighed. “As it happens, I could really use two hundred quid. Mind if I take your bet?” The ringleader’s face lit up, like Christmas had come early instead of Hallowe’en.
“Sure. But if you chicken out, you’ve gotta give me the whole story so I can sell it to a magazine. Should make it a fair bet.”
“It’s a deal. Show me to the house.”
The night seemed unusually warm for mid-October as we – my three new friends and I – stumbled along the streets of our town and stopped outside a big, empty house with an old, battered ‘For Sale’ sign propped haphazardly against the gatepost and lashed in place with frayed blue rope. They claimed the house was haunted, but it looked alright to me, so…
“How are you gonna know if I do it? Wait out here and keep an eye on me?” The guys laughed.
“Nah, it’s bound to get cold at some point. Dan monitors CCTV for the council, and there’s a few cameras pointed at the house from various angles. So no tricks. We’ll be watching from the control room to make sure you don’t run.”
“And you’ll be back in the morning to settle up?”
“Sure. Have my business card, so you can call if you want to quit.” I took it, though I didn’t have my mobile any more – the thieves had taken that, too – reasoning that if he broke his part of the deal, this would help me find him.
“Alright. See you in the morning, boys.” And with that, I clumsily scaled the tall iron fence, getting my foot caught in some kind of creeper in the process and having to struggle free, then dropped to the ground and began strolling towards the house as the lads whooped and cheered.
Sauntering up the path that led through an unkempt garden to the front door, I began to notice details that hadn’t been readily apparent from the road; some of the glass at the front of the house was broken and boarded up, creeping vines were everywhere, and the dark windows began to look more like soulless, foreboding eyes the closer I got. Then again, I reasoned, I was a bit drunk, and it’s not like I’d be the first person to get the creeps over an old building for absolutely no reason. It wasn’t going to deter me from getting those two hundred pounds; I needed that to keep me going until my replacement cards came in. I reached the door to find it locked – of course it was – but a quick inspection of the nearest ground-floor window revealed that I could reach through a missing pane and unhook the latch. An undignified slither over the windowsill later, I was inside the house, turning to close the window again – out of habit rather than anything else – and wave at the men outside. They waved back and began wandering away, presumably to their little control room, and I was alone inside the house.
I turned from the window to start exploring; if I was going to spend the night in the house, I wanted to have a good nose around, not sit in the window and wait for the dawn like a terrified child. To my surprise, there was still quite a lot of furniture in the room – an end table, a dark mirror, a tall winged armchair – as if whoever had moved out had just given up on the lot of it and left it behind. It seemed to be a study of some sort – bookcases, half-emptied and with an assortment of battered-looking books and miscellaneous objects still littering the shelves, lined the walls, and there was even what looked like an old gramophone in the corner. I liked that; it might be worth something, and if it wasn’t, well, my flat could do with some decoration now everything I used to own had been smashed to pieces. Perhaps I’d come back to that later.
This didn’t seem too bad, so far; in fact, staying there seemed like a much more attractive proposition than going back to the wreckage of my own home. It occurred to me that if I thought so, others might also have seen the potential for a good bit of squatting. I couldn’t just hole up in one room, even if I wanted to, for fear of being surprised by another illegitimate tenant who wouldn’t be expecting an intruder. If I could find them before they found me, I could at least try to secure a truce with them, permission to stay the night. Perhaps I’d even get some good company out of this stupid dare. In fact, I thought I could hear footsteps somewhere on a higher floor, shuffling around uncertainly as one might when woken by a stranger coming in through a window. With this in mind, I stepped out into the hall, ready to seek out anyone else who might be sharing my impromptu home for the night.
The cold air in the hall hit me like a block of ice; the alcohol in my system had been keeping me warm so far, but now I folded my arms tightly and tried not to shiver as I peered around in the gloom. I thought I saw a shape move in the shadows; I called out, cautiously trying to make myself known as a friend, not a threat, but there was no reply. I felt a cat wind itself around my legs, but when I looked down there was no telltale glint of eyes, no furry creature at all. The hall was empty, save for me and the old, broken grandfather clock by the front door, which looked like it hadn’t moved in years, and the wide staircase leading up to the upper levels. It must have been nothing more than a warm draft. I swallowed hard and began to make my way upstairs; the higher windows had seemed more intact from outside, so perhaps the old abandoned bedrooms might offer some much-needed warmth.
As I reached the top of the stairs, I heard an inhuman shriek.
Check back tomorrow for part two!