Sonam shot up from where she was half-lying on the table, right next to the EMF.
“Shit, did you hear that?” She said, looking back at Ryan and Ellie, giggling at each other on the sofa. They were kind of cute, in a teeth-rotting way.
“Hear what?” Ellie said, tearing her eyes away from Ryan like it was something painful.
“Uh, how about the EMF meter?” Sonam rolled her eyes. “It just beeped really loudly, how the hell did you not notice?”
“We weren’t really paying attention.” Ryan scratched the back of his head, looking sheepish.
Sonam wanted to bang her head against a wall. “Ryan, this is your ghost hunt, remember?”
“Yes!” Ryan said defensively. “I just… anyway, what happened with the EMF?”
“It beeped.” Sonam replied. “That means that just now, there was a huge change in the electromagnetic field around here.”
“Isn’t that, like, the number one sign of ghost activity?” Ellie said, uncurling herself from Ryan and reaching to the chair for a jumper off the pile. Her voice was muffled as she pulled it over her head. “No, wait, it’s the number two sign. The number one sign is… is… ah, I can’t remember. It’s…”
Sonam’s eyes widened as she saw Ryan hug his arms around himself tighter, saw Ellie crawling back into his space for warmth. “Cold spots.” She breathed, and her hot breath was clouded and visible in the suddenly freezing air.
“Does this mean,” Ryan said through chattering teeth. “Does this mean ghosts?”
“Dunno. Maybe.” Sonam went over to grab a jumper for herself. It was about four sizes too big for her. Probably Matt’s, but she didn’t care enough to go rooting through the pile for her own. “Can’t know for sure yet.”
“Can we leave?” Ellie asked, standing. “Find somewhere warmer. I’ll be an ice cube if I stay here much longer.”
“We got to stay with the equipment, though.” Ryan protested. “If it’s ghosts, they might get pissed and smash our stuff.”
“If it’s ghosts, how the hell are we going to stop them even if we are here.” Ellie said, grabbing a camera and a packet of crisps from the table and throwing open the door to the hall. She went through. No tolerance for the extremes, that girl.
“No tolerance for anything.” Ryan laughed, and shit, had Sonam said that last bit out loud? “You can go if you want. I’ll stay with the stuff. Make sure there’s no ghost ruckus or whatever.”
“You’d be alright on your own?” Sonam wasn’t really surprised. Anyone who suggested going to a haunted house on Halloween with a bunch of friends had probably done it before, alone.
“Yeah, no worries. To be honest, I’m more worried about Ell being on her own than me.” He laughed again once, and gestured for her to follow Ellie out.
“Where d’you want to go?” Ellie asked her, not even turning to face her. She was standing right in the middle of the hall, suspended in the silver light.
“Wherev– hang on, I just got a text.” Sonam fished out her beeping phone and unlocked it quickly. A text from Dan flashed on the screen, pristine.
Could you come upstairs? We’ve found something you might be interested in.
“Hey, Dan’s asking us to come upstairs.” Sonam told Ellie, beginning to head over to the stairs. “Ugh, his texts are so polite.”
Just then, another text came in.
We’re down the right-hand corridor.
“D’you want to go?” Ellie asked, finally turning around.
“No better place to be.” Sonam replied, and headed towards the stairs. They creaked underneath her feet, each and every one.
"You think there's really ghosts?" Ellie said quietly as they walked up, making way through the thick darkness.
Sonam shrugged. "Who knows."
"I didn't think there would be. Thought it would just be a laugh hanging out with you lot all night, you know?" Ellie carried on. "Now there's ghosts showing up I don't know if I want to be here any more. I seen The Exorcist a hundred times but that don't mean I want that shit to happen to me, you know?"
Sonam sighed. "This is ghosts, not demons, yeah? Come on, Ellie. You're smarter than being scared by a bit of cold air."
"I'm not scared!" Ellie defended, flaring up. "I'm not."
"You sound it." Sonam pointed out.
They reached the top of the stairs, and Ellie looked around, down into the abysses of the corridors coming off the landing. “Which way?”
"Right, I think." Sonam said, and turned down the corridor. Ellie took the lead and they walked single file around a chair, standing upright in the middle of the corridor. Shining her torch on he ground, she could see Dan and Matt's footprints.
Up ahead, a light shone out of one of the doorways, blinding them for a second. Then the light angled down a bit, and they could see Dan's head poking into the corridor. He motioned them over with his hand, not saying a word. Ellie glanced back at Sonam, rolling her eyes. Ellie’s weird dislike for Dan was just that. Weird. If she didn’t know better, Sonam might have mistaken it for sexual tension. On Ellie’s part, at least, not Dan’s.
Inside the room, Matt and Dan were waiting.
It looked like a bedroom. Pretty classy, pretty big, covered in dust, piano in one corner. As you'd expect in a house like this. There was a huge sheet on the floor.
“What’s up?” Sonam said.
Dan shone the light of the phone onto the bed, and Sonam's eyes widened. There were no sheets or covers, no pillow, just a mattress on the frame, covered in dried blood.
"Holy shit." Ellie yelped, nearly jumping out o her skin. "Holy shit."
Sonam stared. She'd seen this much blood once before - not an experience she'd like to relive, thank you - but still. A shiver ran down her spine. This much blood, no way whoever was in this bed had survived.
"There were a sheet over the bed." Matt breathed. "There was sheets on beds in other rooms."
"You think there's more like this?" Sonam said. She couldn't take her eyes off the bed.
"Maybe." Matt said.
Sonam finally ripped her eyes away to look at him. "You think we should look." She realised.
Matt didn't say anything, just looked back at the bed, the mess that lay there. It was Dan who spoke.
"Yes." He said quietly. "I won't sleep tomorrow if I don't know."
"I won't be sleeping tomorrow as it is, after this!" Ellie said frantically, gesturing wildly at the bed. "I don't want to leave this room, I want to leave this house!"
Sonam understood. God, she understood. But there was no way she was leaving without knowing. "Go, then." She said.
Ellie stayed. Sonam understood that too. There was no way she'd walk around this place on her own, even if it was just to leave.
They ended up going to the room next door, one Matt and Dan said they'd been in before, a girl's bedroom by the look of it. It was eerily similar to the first room. Like whoever had been there had just got up and left, for no reason at all. And the bed, like the one in the other room had been before Matt and Dan got there, was covered in a dust sheet.
Dan wasted no time. His hands were shaking like a polaroid picture, but he grabbed the sheet and wrenched it from the bed.
Sonam felt sick.
"This was a bad idea." Ellie said.
Matt nodded. "We can go back downstairs." He shook his head. "We /should/ go back downstairs."
Ellie nodded. Like Sonam, she hasn't taken her yes off the mattress since she'd first laid eyes in it. Even just for a few seconds, it was completely capturing. Sonam felt under a spell. "Okay. Lets go."
As they turned to leave, head back downstairs, one thought was drumming through Sonam's head, over and over, some old proverb, something her nan had once said.
Don't turn your back on the dead.