We passed from the foyer and into the living room. The lights flickered.
We all glanced up at the bulb as it stabilised. Nick didn’t stop his chant but
spread extra smoke around the lights.
Ruby hung close to my side as we followed Nick into the dining room.
Lucky kept pace not far behind us. I could almost feel the concern emanating
from him, and I wondered if our spirit medium had underestimated my
“It’s time to move on. You are not welcome here.” Nick scattered salt
crystals across the windowpanes as he circled the table. A single low,
thrumming note came from the music room. I closed my eyes, waiting for the
song to start, but it didn’t.
Nick stepped around the table to nudge open the music room door. Its
lights were out. He flicked the switch, but they stayed dead. “You are not
welcome here.”He was a braver person than me, I decided as Nick stepped into the
darkness. The three of us exchanged a glance before following. Prickles crept
over my arms as I entered the music room. It almost felt like walking through
spiderwebs. My reflexes kicked in, and I rubbed my hands over my skin.
Nick turned slowly. His bushy eyebrows were pulled low, and
perspiration dotted his face. “She liked this room. She used to play for
hours.” He raised his voice. “Shreya, it’s time to move on.”
The curtains curled outwards in the wind. For a second, I imagined I’d
seen a silhouette behind them, but then it was gone.
Metal clinked somewhere upstairs. Ruby squeezed my arm. Nick lifted
his herbs to spread their smoke around the room. A gust of wind blew across
the leaves. The sage crumbled. It turned to powder in Nick’s hands, the dust
falling across the carpet.
“What…” Nick glanced up. The sweat was more noticeable. He ran his
finger around his collar. “That shouldn’t happen. Shouldn’t be possible.”
The chains were moving closer to the stairs. When I closed my eyes, I
could visualise them: heavy links dragged along the ground by the black-
haired woman with pallid skin and staring eyes.
“I have another bunch.” Nick backed towards the dining room doorway.
“Won’t take a minute.”
A high-pitched electrical whine buzzed through the house. All of the
lights went out. I could still see thanks to the daylight coming through the
windows, but the change in the atmosphere was palpable. The shadows
gathered more deeply, obscuring the room’s corners and clinging to the
With a sharp clink, the chain was pulled taut. Nick stopped in the
doorway, eyes turned towards the ceiling, as we held our breath and listened.
The cobweb-like prickles intensified. Then Nick gasped and doubled over.
He retched then dropped to his knees with a whine. I ran to him, Lucky close
“Hey, you okay?” I put a hand on his shoulder.
He was ice cold. Sweat soaked through his shirt. I looked up at Lucky. He
was breathing heavily, his face pale.
“Out,” Nick gasped. “Get me out . ”
“Okay. Lean on me.” I hooked his arm around my shoulder as Lucky
lifted from his other side. The three of us staggered down the hallway.
A long, high-pitched note hung in the air. I shot a glance towards thepiano, but Ruby wasn’t anywhere near it. The note lasted far longer than I
thought it could have, and it grew louder instead of dulling. It shook inside
my skull, making me nauseous and filling me with inexplicable dread.
The front door drifted open as we neared it. The motion made me want to
recoil, but Nick was bent on getting outside. I supported him, half guiding
and half carrying, as we made our way down the porch and across the dead
I looked behind myself, but Ruby wasn’t following us. A spike of panic
hit me, but then my friend emerged from the house’s shadows. Ruby jogged
after us, carrying Nick’s case.
Nick looked a little better once we got him past the edge of the property.
He leaned on the fence, gasping in harsh breaths, sweat drenching him. I
didn’t know what to do, so I hovered beside Ruby while we waited for the
older man to recover.
He eventually stood straight. His glasses had fogged up, so he took them
off to clean them while he caught his breath. “Well. She certainly doesn’t like
men. You felt it, too, didn’t you, Lucky? ”