The Ghost Experts

NOMMED FOR MOVELLA OF THE YEAR 2016

*Formerly Bump in the Night*

The Ghost Experts is a ghost-hunting programme that’s different from all the others. That’s because none of it’s real.

Tony has always wanted to be a real paranormal investigator. His co-workers are perfectly happy to build their careers on falsehoods and cheap tricks, but Tony’s always wanted something more. Something real. Unfortunately, he’s about to get his wish.

When the crew set up in the infamous Lansfield Hall, it soon becomes clear that this won’t just be another normal day. One by one, the crew start to realise there’s more to those spooky ghost stories than they first thought. Subtly spooky antics turn into all-out carnage, bottled-up tensions rise to the surface, and a simple job turns into a fight for survival. If they want to live to see the sunrise, they’ll have to abandon the script.

They aren’t real ghost hunters, but that doesn’t matter any more, because these ghosts don’t want to be hunted.

23Likes
26Comments
12021Views
AA

17. Part of the Plan

Tony had learnt a lot about his own emotions in the last two hours. He knew how quickly calm could turn to fear, how quickly fear could turn back to calm, and how quickly hysteria could take over every other emotion. He was experiencing the latter now. Screams were tangling through the air towards him, but he honestly didn’t know how Jean was managing to get the sound out. Every time he tried to speak, his mouth filled with burning heat and he gagged on smoke that wasn’t even there.

Tony, who’d fallen backwards and hit his head against the banisters when the first fingers of flame wriggled their way up through the floorboards, scrambled to his feet and took a step backwards. Before he could walk into Dave, he felt a hand grab his wrist and drag him up onto the second stair. Then, together, even if it was just for a dazed, stupid second, they stood and watched all semblance of rational escape turn to shit.

To say the fire took hold of the house would be a bloody accurate description, because, obviously, they weren’t normal flames at all. They weren’t thick orange sheets belching black smoke and lapping at the walls in waves. They were thin, sinewy, white snakes of lazy energy; they drank the moonlight and spat it out without its warmth and overflowed from the ground like an infestation of parasites, rippling up and down and up again. When they reached the walls, they grew upwards; they crawled up over the wooden panels like fog and grasped at the ceiling-beams. They ate away at the wood like it were paper and they were water, turning it to pulp, wrapping clawed fingers around it and tugging it to the ground in splintered, torn, charred heaps. Ashes were fluttering to the ground like moths and the walls were dripping black like there was liquid running over them. It was hypnotic to watch, and even as Tony called himself every disgusting word in the English language for standing stock-still with his mouth agape, just like he’d been doing all night long, he couldn’t help being bloody mesmerised. The room pulsed black around him and the gasoline-tinged stench of smoke forced its way into his lungs and filled his head, scratching at the inside of his skull like a hangover. He wanted to run, but he also wanted to stay and watch the house collapse around him and drag him under. What was the point? He was dead already, wasn’t he? Yeah, sure. Just lie down and give them an easier fucking job, why don’t you?

“Bloody sight to behold,” Dave murmured next to him. Tony turned and saw Dave was filming again, the black hairline cracks on his tiny phone screen shattering the white flames into a million tepid fragments. Of course he was filming.

“Why d’you…” the dizziness that was already twitching his eyes closed slurred his voice like he was blind drunk. “Why d’you still think… think there’s a point to filming?”

Dave looked at him. “Huh?”

Tony shrugged and went back to watching the fire.

“We’re dead, aren’t we?”

“What?” Dave grabbed his arm. No, wait. That was his hand. Dave was holding his hand and he was doing fuck all about it.

“We’re going to die, Dave. She wants us dead. You were right.”

“Yeah,” Dave said. “But I never said I was going down without a fight, did I?.”

On the other side of the wall of white fire, Jean was screaming. Of course she was.

“JEAN!” Dave screamed, making Tony jump. Apart from the occasional phut of a new piece of the house falling out of place, it was silent. Maybe that was part of the trance he was trying to drag himself out of.

“W- WHAT?” Jean screamed, taking a break from her hysterical shrieking to shout something legible. What the FUCK do we do?”

“I- I don’t know!” Dave yelled, looking up at Tony. His eyes were red and sweat was bleeding down his face. “Isn’t there a window in that door?”

I don’t KNOW!” Jean yelled back.

“Well, fucking LOOK then!”

“Yeah, there is!” came Kevin’s voice, higher and thinner than hers.

“Well, can you break it?”

Tony looked at Dave. Dave’s grip on his hand tightened for a second before he looked down and let go. Tony tried to ignore the sinking of his heart like a stone in a river.

The sharp smashing shriek of glass breaking shot through the room like a bullet. Tony’s head jerked round to the far side of the room, where he knew Jean and Kevin were, but he still couldn’t see them.

“Are you OUT?” he yelled, invisible smoke filling his mouth.

No answer.

JEAN!” He screamed, hot tears falling down his cheeks. “Are you still FUCKING alive?”

Still nothing. God, he hated silence.

And fire. He hated that too.

That was a new addition.

He looked back at Dave.

“So they either got out of the window,” he said.

“Or they’re dead,” Dave finished, a bitter smile tweaking the corner of his mouth. Tony’s spine bled colder, then hotter, and then, he couldn’t really feel anything anymore. His limbs started getting heavier and heavier.

Just lie down. Make their job easier.

“How do we get out?” Tony forced his mouth to say. He dragged his head back round to look at the fire, taking another mouthful of heavy heat that stabbed his eyes and tried to yank him down to the ground. The flames were spilling over the ceiling in a solid sheet, threading through the myriad cracks in the walls and yanking sideways to tear them wider. This porch was right next to the ruined kitchen. If they didn’t get out soon, the room would fall apart like the next domino in the chain. With them in it. Him and Dave.

Tony grabbed Dave’s arm and they both took a step backwards, forced against the wall as the fire crept closer like a fucking hungry animal. His fingers slipped down and they were holding hands again. Who gave a shit? They were going to die.

“You feel dizzy yet?” He said, his head lolling to one side as he turned to look at Dave.

Dave was looking right at the flames, the sweat in his hair glinting and tears making his black eyes shine bright yellow. He didn’t look back at Tony.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “You?”

Tony sniffed with laughter. “I feel like I’ve just drunk all the beer in my fridge in ten seconds flat.”

Dave turned to look at him as a rope of flame shot sideways and lashed around a ceiling-beam. It yanked it down and slammed it onto the ground in a shower of papery black wood and tepid white sparks. The weirdest thing was, the closer the fire got, the colder the room felt.

“Which is?” Dave whispered.

Tony turned to him. “What?”

“How much beer’s that?”

“A fucking lot.”

Tony had to force the laughter out of his lungs, but Dave’s came easily. Tony hadn’t realised how tightly the line between gullible optimism and crushing cynicism could be stretched when death was breathing down your neck. Dave, a gullible optimist, seemed to be fine. He, a crushing cynic, was fine too. It was all good. Maybe he was in shock. Maybe not. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he’d stopped caring a long fucking time ago.

Dave stepped sideways, dragging Tony with him, to lean against the front door. Their clasped hands fumbled across the doorknob, which, surprisingly enough, was ice-cold.

“Suppose it’s too much to hope the fucking door’ll open,” Tony said, his words blurring together like he was underwater.

Dave laughed. “Wanna try?”

“Nah.”

It was freezing, freezing cold. How the fuck was that even possible? The flames had burned so white they were almost blue and the smoke was still choking him, but the sickness was pooling in his throat and his lungs in frozen chunks. A dull ache was spreading outwards from his chest as the first wall fell, on the other side of the fire. It fell in silence. The room was filled with deathly silence. He closed his eyes.

“Oh, look,” Dave muttered next to him. “A fucking wall’s come open.”

Tony opened his eyes just in time for the first flame to spit venom into his face. It seared on his flesh and burrowed aching cold deeper into his skull; he could feel the skin peeling back, butter to the fire’s knife. The fire was alive, and it was sharper than metal, then softer than cloth. It could stab him and rip him clean in half like it had ripped the walls.

“Shit, are you okay?” Dave turned to him.

“Fine.” Tony laughed.

“Look, the wall’s come open.” Dave made the mistake of raising his arm from his side. White tongues licked his wrist and his hand shot back like he’d been electrocuted, the flesh congealing electric red as it burned.

“Fuck!” Dave screamed. “Fucking hell, that was fucking-”

“Hot?” Tony finished.

“Cold.” Dave said, incredulous. “Cold as ice.”

Tony blinked in shock and looked at the wall. A muddle of black, green and purple outdoors poked through the hole left by the fire. He could taste the dusty fog in the smoke dragging his vision away, and he wanted it.

“We should make a run for it.” Dave said, pressing his head back against the wall as another flare of flame peppered the wall with sparks.

Tony turned to him. “You reckon?”

“I do.”

Dave licked his lips and let go of Tony’s hand.

“We have to run through the bloody fire.” Tony said. “We can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

Tony bent double and coughed into the crook of his elbow till his throat burned him.

“B-because. Because we’ll get burned to a crisp, you fucking fool.”

“Good point.”

“Maybe we should try this,” Tony said, and he reached behind him and took hold of the doorknob again. And he turned it. And the door opened.

Dave looked at him. “Oh. I guess that could fucking work now.”

Tony grabbed his hand again- he wasn’t sure why he kept doing that- and dragged him out onto the front porch. Just like that, they were outside and the flames were inside and they were going to live.

“Oh.” Tony looked at Dave.

“Well, THAT could have fucking decided to work sooner!” Dave yelled as the door swung shut. Tony collapsed onto the steps and breathed a mouthful of winter night air that ripped clean through the hot bullshit fogging his mind.

They sat there, gulping like fish dropped back into water, for at least five minutes. And only when all the delirious death-wish may-as-well thoughts had dissolved from both their minds did they finally remember to let go of each other’s hands.

“Fucking… hell…” Tony panted. “Oh…oh my god.”

“I know,” Dave said, looking up at the sky.

Tony looked down at the cracked stone patio underneath him. It was flickering red and blue and green and brown as the fire pressed up against the grimy stained-glass window behind them. The night lull was punctuated every so often by a burst of noise as one part of the house or another flung itself into the air and vanished.

“I think we should get up and move,” Dave said after a while.

Tony got up and brushed himself off. “Good idea.” His heart sank. “I guess we should see if Jean and Kevin and-”

He froze.

“No, I was thinking more let’s run down the driveway,” Dave said.

“Right.”

They walked down to the end of the driveway, Tony walking, Dave hurrying and spinning on his heel. Tony reached him a few seconds later. He turned.

They watched as the house ripped itself in half.

Claws of lukewarm white gripped both sides of the seam in the wall and tore outwards, crushing the wall with the side door into a scuff of splinters and blackened ashes. The room above it- which one was that? The room next to the master bedroom- crumpled like a tin can and fell inwards, windows and beams and the shredded remains of roofing tiles pouring into the black sinkhole next to the staircase. Dave gasped, clamping his hand over his mouth and jerking with silent horrified laughter. Tony just stood and watched as a ceiling became a floor and a roof became another floor. It was ridiculous. It was like kicking a hole through a dollhouse. He should have known; he’d kicked a hole through his own dollhouse after he’d realised they were meant to be for girls. He’d always lived in a messy world, but never before had it got quite as messy as this.

Once the night had finished moaning under the weight of all that new debris, the house was symmetrical. One room missing from either side, with the staircase in the middle. Cracked tiles, splintered wood, crumbled bricks and snapped branches of the hanging tree lying on the floor in a mosaic. All silhouetted in black against the silvering grey of the night sky like some kind of fucking taunt at the English countryside.

And not a spark in sight.

Dave slid his hand up to hold Tony’s, then thought better of it and tugged him into a hug, wrapping his arms tight round Tony’s neck. Why the fuck not? They’d already buggered every other whisper of bravery. Strength. Manliness. Tony kept one eye on the emaciated carcass of the dead house as he swallowed his pride and hugged Dave back.

They didn’t swap a single word, and for a second, they just stood there.

“Who… who else is left?” Tony murmured after a few seconds, pushing himself back.

“What?” Dave looked at him.

“Who else is left, Dave?” Tony sighed and dragged a hand across his forehead. “Are we the only ones? Jean and Kevin got out, didn’t they?”

“I dunno. I heard the window breaking,” Dave said. “But what about-”

“Fucking Travis,” Tony muttered, covering his face with his hands.

“What? Oh.”

“Travis! He went upstairs like a fucking moron.”

“My god.” Dave shook his head. “No. He won’t have. Lived. Won’t have lived. He’s chicken feed.”

“The fire went out!” Tony waved his hand towards the house. “We have to see-”

“No, we don’t. The fire wouldn’t’ve gone out if he was still alive.”

“The fuck are you on about?”

“Tony, they’re picking us off; can’t you see that? They’re picking us off one by one like fucking cannon-fodder.” Dave swallowed, licking his lips, and looked at Tony properly. “Gerry died. Jean and Andy both lived, and Gerry was the only one who died. One by one, Tony; it’s all part of a fucking plan! That fire would not have fucking stopped if one idiot wasn’t dead yet. And I bet it’s him.”

“We have to try-”

“No, you’re right. We have to try. To save his ass even though he was happy to let us all die. He left us, Tony, and that’s why he’s dead.”

Tony looked up at the sky, then shook his head and opened his eyes. “No. We have to go back in. If you’re right, and he’s dead, the fire won’t start up again. If you’re wrong, maybe we can get him out.”

Tony took off running down the driveway, the weeds and gravel scrunching wetly under his feet and the cold wind pressing sideways on the laceration under his eye. He threw open the door, jerking back in shock as the glass exploded and fluttered to the ground on impact with the wall, and looked wildly around him for signs of life.

Well, there weren’t any. But there weren’t any signs of death either. Jean and Kevin had either made it out or gotten buried in the rubble.

“Travis!” Tony screamed. “TRAVIS! You up there?”

He looked up. Up through the gaping grey fraying hole in the ceiling. Ashes were spinning in the air like leaves and the room around him was a churned mess of sticky black debris. The smell of smoke was intoxicating and he felt his mind wavering, trying to drag him back under, but he pushed it away for once in his life and tried to think straight.

“Yeah.”

Tony jumped. Wait, what?

“Yeah, I’m here,” the voice from upstairs repeated. Travis’ voice.

“Fucking hell,” Dave whispered behind him. “He actually did live.”

“’Course I lived,” Travis said, stumbling down the staircase like his legs were made of jelly. “What the fuck happened?”

“Oh, you missed it,” Tony said, waving his hand. “You missed all the fun! The room caught on fire and we all nearly burned to death.”

“You lived, then,” Dave said, shaking his head. “I thought all the arseholes were dead already.”

“No.” Travis looked down at himself and then back up, scowling. “I guess not.”

“Good. Bit longer before the good guys start dying, then.”

Tony sighed and budged Dave to shut him up.

“Come on, we’re getting the hell out,” he said to Travis.

Travis looked over his shoulder. “Where are the others? Kevin and the fucking demon-witch?”

“Fuck off, Travis,” Dave mumbled.

“I don’t know.” Tony shivered. “If they got out, they’re round the back. We need to go get them and get the hell out of here.”

Travis shrugged, his hand still clutching his phone. “Fine. Whatever you say.”

Travis stepped down from the last step onto the ruined floor of the porch, and as if they were spring-loaded, several spikes of flame shot out of the ground at his feet. They writhed like ribbons at his eye level as he jumped, then stopped to stare at them. His eyes were wide, but he still managed to force his mouth up into a sneer.

“Fucking adorable, these,” Travis said, his voice drizzled with sarcasm. “You almost died from this?”

Tony and Dave took a step back in unison. Tony looked at Dave, and Dave’s expression told him everything he needed to know.

Told you so.

He looked back at Travis just in time to see the edges of the flames, which just a second ago were blurrier than the smoke they stank of, grew taller and brooded over him. Their edges grew hard and serrated like rusty broken metal, then blurred again as they snapped downwards and speared Travis like a fish. He didn’t even flinch.

Tony gasped and covered his mouth with his hand, but all emotion had pretty much abandoned him. He just turned, choked back a scream, and followed Dave out of the front door. He dared to glance back at Travis through the missing windowpane as the flames dumped him back to the ground and dissolved into vapour.

“Well,” Dave murmured without a trace of irony. His voice was forced flat into a monotone and his eyes, when Tony looked at him, were wrought blank. “That’s something you don’t see every day.”

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...