They followed Dan back downstairs. He wasn’t entirely sure why he had the lead - he had neither torch nor camera to speak of. But still, he had the lead. Maybe because he had been the least shaken by… well. By what they’d seen up there.
No, he couldn’t think about it. The only reason he was okay because he was blanking it from his mind, so that was what he had to keep doing, or else he was sure he’d end up like the others - walking through the house as though in a trance, pale as the ghosts they’d come here to find.
They reached the hall again quickly. It was exactly unchanged from how Dan has seen it twice before, filled with moonlight. Dan went to open the door, but when his fingers graced on the door handle, the metal seared them, a burst of hot pain through his hand. Wait, no, not hot. Cold. Freezing. So cold it burnt him like fire.
He shook his head. That wasn’t possible. He reached down and grasped the handle again, and turned. Fine. Just normal metal. His mind was playing tricks on him. It had to be.
Inside the living room, Ryan was sitting in almost exactly the same position as he had been when Dan had left him - his back to the door, curled up against the arm of the sofa. Except not, no, he was sitting up straight, back rigid as though he were fixed to a pole.
“Ryan?” Dan asked, approaching. “Are you all right?”
Ryan didn’t answer for a moment, didn’t even turn. Just sat, as he was, for a few seconds. Then burst into life, like he had just been playing musical statues.
“Ryan? Yes, yes, of course.” Ryan said sharply. His tone was odd, but maybe it was for shivering. The room was considerably colder than it had been before. “I’m fine. How are you?”
“We’re fine. A bit shaken up, I suppose. We’re starting to regret coming.” Dan admitted, coming around the sofa to face Ryan. Who was smiling widely, grinning. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
Ryan nodded vigorously. “Quite all right. Yes, fine.” He pulled his smile wider, his eyes wide, his face turning almost turning grotesque at the strain, a gargoyle of what it usually was.
Ellie appeared next to Dan. “Stop smiling, Ry, you’re freaking me out more than I’m already freaked out.”
“You’re scared?” Ryan asked, dropping the smile instantly. It unnerved Dan to see it, the sudden change from hysterical to serious. “Because of the blood?”
“Yeah.” Sonam said, dropping herself onto a chair. “I don’t think I’m going to stay. Hate to say it, but there’s no way I’m staying in here until morning. Not with all that upstairs.” She shuddered, so like how she’s jokingly shuddered earlier. Except now, Dan noted, it was certainly real.
Ellie agreed, kneeling on the floor and gathering up her jumpers and blanket into a plastic bag. “Sorry, Ry. I ain’t hanging around here any longer than I need to. We all, well, I did, at least, thought that this was just a funny thing to do on Halloween."
Sonam grabbed her jumper too, pulling it around her waist. "Yeah. Never thought this place would have actual murder in it."
Matt cut Ellie off. “How you know about the blood?”
Ryan started. “The what?” He said, innocently.
“The blood.” Matt repeated, narrowed his eyes. “You said about the blood. How you know about the blood?”
Dan’s eyes widened. It was true. Ryan had been downstairs the whole time, how could he have known about––
“Oh, fine then, though I was wishing I could play just a bit longer.” Ryan said. But it wasn’t Ryan talking. Those weren’t his words, that wasn’t his tone, this wasn’t Ryan. “It’s a real shame you worked it out so quickly.” Not-Ryan said, huffing.
“Who the hell are you?” Ellie said. “Where’s Ryan?”
“Ryan’s here, silly!” Not-Ryan said, chipper. “Right here! This is Ryan’s body, after all. I’m just, how would you say… I’m house-sitting, for a while.”
“Get out of him!” Sonam cried. ”Give him back!”
Not-Ryan tutted. “It’s rude to shout. I’m Lois, by the by, thank you for asking.” Not-Ryan-Now-Lois nodded politely at Ellie, who shrank back. Dan felt like doing the same. This, this Lois was just wrong, just wrong in every aspect, as far from right as anything could be, especially wearing Ryan’s face like this. Dan wanted to rip her out of Ryan’s body right there, if only he could.
“Who are you?” Dan asked, careful his voice didn’t shake. “What are you doing here?”
Lois shrugged. “I live here. This is my home. Or, at least, it was. Until the unfortunate end.”
“You’re a ghost.” Dan realised. “You died here.”
Lois laughed, and Dan expected what when she was alive, her voice would have been like a bell. In Ryan’s throat, it just sounded bitter. “Died, committed suicide. Same difference, I think.”
"You killed yourself." Sonam said. She was strung-up, fight or flight, Dan could see. From what he knew of Sonam, this couldn't be the only time she'd been in this position. A violent girl from a violent neighbourhood was bred with this sort of instinct, that much he knew.
Lois brushed hair out of her eyes. "Why, yes. Hanged myself. In fact," She leaned back and grinned again, morphing Ryan's face again into something repulsive. "I stringed myself up in the rafters right there," She pointed lazily to the roof above Sonam. "Right over where you're standing."
"You hang yourself here," Matt started, narrowing his eyes. "But there blood in the beds?"
Lois laughed again, loud. It shattered through the room, set Dan's hair on end.
"Why," Lois smiled, all teeth. "The blood's from when I killed my entire family." Then she stood, levering herself up from the sofa, and rolled up her sleeves. "And soon there'll be new blood, from when I kill you too."