“Is it possible the spiders could have respun the webs that fast?” His face was pulled tight with distaste.
“Um, do you mean the invisible spiders that are nowhere to be seen?”
Using his flashlight to tear through the first round of webs, Connor shivered. “I fucking hate spiders.”
The stairs creaked under my feet and I stepped gingerly, hoping to God the old wood could support my weight. When we reached the top there was a small landing and another door painted red in the shape of an arch.
“Nothing good ever waits behind a red door,” I whispered.
“Our pal, Maynard, certainly knew how to use color in an interesting way.” Connor pushed open the door which protested with a long squeal. He directed his light into the room, illuminating more cobwebs and sheets covering what looked like furniture and children’s toys.
Cautiously, we entered the little room. The ceiling was low and we had to bend over just to go forward. It was eerie as we made our way through the clutter, and difficult to shake the feeling that anything could be hiding under the filthy sheets. The dark played tricks on my eyes and I kept thinking I was seeing movement on the edge of my sight.
“Brandon?” I whispered. Something about the closed quarters made it difficult to yell. I couldn’t shake the idea that if I made too much noise I might wake the dead. I strained my ears hoping to hear Brandon respond to me.
Connor lifted the sheet from what looked like a pile of broken toys and I jumped back at the sight of a strange, mangled doll.
“What the hell is that?” I asked, my eyes wide. The doll’s head was bald and the material that covered the face was deteriorating, giving it a corpse-like appearance. But what was freaky was the doll was flat on its stomach and its arms were stuck in front. There was a flat square metal plate on the doll’s back and gears and levers including a big wind-up key on the side.
“I think it moves, maybe?” Connor was watching the doll as if it was going to lunge at us.
“Oh, God. Please don’t tell me that thing moves.”
“That is so creepy.” He peered closer, scrunching his face in a frown.
“I thought dolls were supposed to be cuddly? That looks like its head would spin as it spit out pea soup.”
He dropped the sheet back over the pile of toys, much like how you might cover a corpse, and shivered. “I wish I could find one normal thing about this place. Just one. But the closer I look, the weirder it gets.”
We moved around the room, peeking under sheets and looking inside trunks. But Brandon wasn’t anywhere to be found. I was in one corner of the room and Connor was a little ways from me riffling through a wooden chest when I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye again. It appeared to be a shadow with no actual form or shape to it, but then it began to writhe in the light of my torch. As I continued to stare in disbelief, it took on the likeness of a human figure, and became sharper, like a camera lens had swiveled into focus.
My eyes strained as I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. It appeared to be a teenage boy wearing dark breeches and a white kerchief around his throat. He was staring at me with his eyes wide and startled, almost as if he was the one seeing a ghost. Then he moved, in slow motion, and put his pale finger up to his lips. His fractured image seemed to come and go, like a crappy TV hooked up to an antenna, but his petrified gaze never left mine.
I tried to say something so I could get Connor’s attention but the words wouldn’t leave my tight throat. The boy’s image was fading, so much so that I had to really strain to make out his young features. He continued to stare straight at me with his huge dark eyes, and his lips were moving now. He seemed to be speaking without making a sound.
I gathered my courage and leaned toward the boy, my breath puffing out in front of me and hanging in the frigid air. It took me two attempts but finally I was able to force out a ragged whisper. “Where’s Brandon?”
The kid began to cry. Large tears streaked down his white cheeks and his mouth twisted.
He shook his head and clutched his throat, trying to speak. I began to realize there was another fuzzy image next to him. I was afraid to blink in case the boy disappeared, and my eyes burned as I attempted to make sense of what I was looking at. Was it a girl beside him? The image became a little clearer and I was able to make out the plum and navy blue material of a ruffled dress, with a red scarlet sash. The young girl looked irritated as she stared at the boy, her face pinched and her mouth grim. Then she seemed to become aware of me as she looked past him, and her eyes bugged out of her head as she slapped her palm to her gaping mouth.
Then, as if a switch was flipped, they both disappeared.
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