The Ghost of Mary-Ann
I learnt long ago that when your eccentric best friend spouts stories about ghosts haunting spooky places, the wisest thing to do is ignore her. That's what I always tried to do at least, but Ruby never took too well having her tall tales about ghosts disregarded as fiction.
"Hey Carrie, are you listening?" Ruby snapped her fingers in my face. "Oi, Caroline!"
I slapped her small hand away. "I'm listening," I yawned. "Just get on with the stupid story."
Ruby grinned at me. "Ever the sceptic Carrie."
I rolled my eyes.
"She's not the only one." Simon said with a smile. I glanced at him, and he winked in my direction.
"Ahem! Guys, look this is a really cool story and it really is true."
I raised an eyebrow at the blatant lie. "That's what you always say."
Ruby Corner has been a supernatural maniac, ever since the day I met her around the age of four. She's always had a strange interest in horror films, particularly those related to ghosts.
Completely ignoring the fact that I'd even spoken, Ruby continued her story. This story contained the typical old haunted house, angry spirit combination. Quite common in ghost stories, and I had heard hundreds from Ruby. I was pretty sick of them.
"A young girl, too young. She fell from a balcony trying to find her lost brother." Her voice had started to take on an eerie lilt. "She thought she would be able to see where he was if only she was on higher ground, but because of that foolish naivety, she plunged to her death. Now she haunts the household, and she'll try to kill anyone who enters, but if she were ever able to find her brother then she'd be able to rest in peace. However-"
"Ha!" I snorted. "Do you expect me to believe any of that?" There were such glaring problems. For one thing, why would two young children be wandering around unsupervised in the first place?
Ruby carried on as if she hadn't heard me, "However, she plans to kill her brother with a knife she carries. The twist, if she hits herself with it, she will disappear, passing onto a world beyond our touch."
"Really?" asked Danny curiously, completely hooked.
"Yes." Ruby nodded, her tone deadly serious.
"Sure," I mumbled. "Honestly, where do you get this stuff from?"
"Stop it, Carrie!" Ruby yelled suddenly, startling me. "I can prove it!"
"Oh yeah? How?"
"I know the location of the house." Ruby told me, with a determined stamp of her foot.
"Come to mine for eleven. Say it's a sleepover or sneak out if you have to."
"I want to go!" Danny said eagerly. No matter what, Danny always got excited when it came to Ruby's ghost hunting plans, despite the fact that they always turned out to be a bitter disappointment.
"Fine." I muttered unenthusiastically, picking at a broken nail.
"Me too." Simon added quickly, not wanting to be the chicken. He sounded quiet, which for Simon was not uncommon, but there was something a little odd in the tone of his voice.
"It's getting late," I pointed out. "I think we should be getting home now-"
"Okay," Said Ruby. "Remember!"
"Yeah, yeah." I muttered.
"Remember!" Ruby repeated, being completely overkill as usual.
Simon and I left together. I was going round his house for dinner that evening, his mum made the best cottage pie I had ever tasted and I just couldn't get enough. Whenever she knew I was coming, she would make it especially.
"What's up?" I asked him as we walked to his house, though I had a feeling I already knew.
I waited, knowing he would tell me eventually. Simon hated to feel pressured into sharing.
"It's just," he ran a hand through his red hair, "it made me think about my own sister."
"What of it? You know Ruby's story was just a load of crap. Don't take it seriously."
Simon gazed into the distance, determined not to look at me as he spoke.
"I know it's stupid, but the story made me think of Mary-Ann, she was looking for me before she was hit by a car."
"It's completely different." I assured him.
"It's just a sad story, that's all." Simon mumbled, more to himself then to me.
"Ruby tells a lot of sad stories, emphasis on the sad. That doesn't make them true."
Simon laughed at my cynicism. "You are a true sceptic Carrie, don't you believe in anything?" I gave him a pointed look. "You know what I mean."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
"Oh well, you never know, you might just be surprised tonight."
I elbowed him in the side. "Shut up. Let's talk about something else."
"Okay." Simon waited, anticipating a more interesting topic.
"Now about your mum's cottage pie eh?"
He laughed and elbowed me back. "What a fascinating subject Carrie."
"I know right? I'm really looking forward to eating it later."
"So you tell me every time."
It was just Simon and his mum. If I believed in superstitions then I would be certain that the Reeve family were cursed with bad luck of some kind.
Before Simon was even born, his father suffered a heart attack. He was young, healthy and took good care of himself. Needless to say, it came as quite a shock to everybody.
Then there was Mary-Ann, a bright, athletic sixteen year old girl, with a promising future, snatched away one night in a tragic accident that reminds you just how fragile life is and how easily it can be taken away.
Simon's mum speaks little about her late husband and daughter, but she honours their memory by hanging their photographs around the house.
As I stared at the half a dozen photographs spread around the sitting room, I thought there was something a little sad about the fact that they never had and never would have a full family photograph. They were placed closely as if to create a makeshift one.
Mary-Ann with her father and Simon and his mother, each child resembling their respective parents closely. The deceased, with their silvery blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes and the living with bright red hair and dark green eyes.
I turned to find Simon watching me with raised eyebrows. "It means nothing." I assured him. "Don't think too deeply about Ruby's stupid story."
Simon looked amused. "I don't think I'm the one thinking about Ruby's story," he answered.
"You were wearing a really puzzled expression. Similar to the one you got when we had to examine the symbolism in English."
"Ridiculous." I muttered. "Not everything has a reason. If you examine everything, you'll never be able to enjoy the simpler things in life."
Simon snorted and took a sip from his glass of Pepsi. "I think you just don't want to do the work."
"I just prefer to read for fun." I sniffed. "When you have to do it for school, it just gets boring."
I peered round the doorway and tried to listen for the delightful sound of the microwave timer, signalling that cottage pie was ready to eat.
Simon coughed, it distinctly sounded like the word "Loser." I ignored him. He didn't understand the joy I held for his mother's cooking, nor did he get that the food wasn't the only thing I looked forward to. I loved how, even though it was just the two of them, meal times were important. They relayed their days to one another or sat in contented silence. They spent time together, and they felt it was essential to do so.
It wasn't a tradition my own family were interested in upholding. I wasn't bitter about it. Different families had different routines. My parents worked a lot, my older brother and sister were away at university and I had extracurricular activities outside of school. Not counting amateur ghost hunting.
It was nice to have a change, to sit around a dinner table with people who were actually interested in what I was saying. My family were all quite serious, logical people who didn't always have a lot to say, I was not exception. I liked the quiet most of the time that was the reason I was friends with someone like Simon, we didn't always have to be having a conversation.
Why I was friends with a loudmouth like Ruby Corner I really didn't know.
Another ding sounded from the kitchen. Such an exquisite sound.
I leapt up quickly. "Yes! Cottage pie, here I come!"
Simon's mother dropped me off at eight in the evening. Three hours before our scheduled sneak out time.
As I said my goodbyes to Simon, I noticed something was still bothering him. I wondered if it was the familiarity of the tale that Ruby had been spinning. We were used to sneaking out since we'd done this before a lot so I knew it wasn't anything to do with that. He never cared for, nor believed in Ruby's silly stories either but something had rattled him.
I crept out of my house easily. I never had much of a problem. It was Danny who was usually the one who got caught since he wasn't particularly skilled in the art of subtly. His parents had frequently caught him, either in a terrible lie or the exact moment he was sneaking out the door.
I didn't want to go. I never did really, all we ever seemed to do was wander round an apparent haunting sight and get a little spooked by the occasional nocturnal animal creeping around in the shadows. It was fun sometimes, not often, but every now and then, it felt like a little adventure, even if nothing happened.
I knew this wasn't going to be one of those fun little adventures, I felt different. A sense of dread hung over me like a dark storm cloud and I was dragging my feet as I walked to Ruby's house at a slow pace. It was no surprise to see I was the last one to arrive.
It made sense for us to meet at Ruby's house because it was central to the rest of us. Ruby preferred to believe it was because she was the very much self-proclaimed leader of our small group.
Ruby let out a sigh when she saw me. "There you are Carrie, we thought you might have chickened out, which would be quite unlike you, non-believer." She grinned, but Ruby actually looked relieved to see me. They all did, safety in numbers I guess. "You would never miss out on the whole, "I told you so" part huh?" Ruby said.
I nodded. "Of course not. So, you agree? You already know what I'll be saying by the end of the night. Then let's go home."
"Nope, not tonight." Ruby grabbed my arm as I began to turn round and looped it through hers."This time it's me who will be saying I told you so. I've got a good feeling about this." Ruby's definition of good feeling was very different from the average person's. "Let's go!" She was off, full steam ahead, dragging me behind her. Danny bounced along beside her and Simon trailed behind with reluctance.
Ruby Corner was a force of nature. The rest of us were just caught in the storm.
Ruby led us to the outskirts of the town to this supposed haunted house. To give her some credit, the house was certainly freaky. It was clear nobody had lived there for years. Once the house had been painted white, but now it was mostly a grey colour, the paint was cracking all over, and the wooden balcony, the apparent scene of the crime, was rotting away. Each and every window was covered in dust, so even if one of us went up close to peer in, all we'd see would be a grey swirl.
"That is so creepy!" Danny shivered with delight. "Wow!"
"Oh look, an old house." I said dryly. "Wow."
"It's so beautiful." Ruby murmured wistfully.
Simon remained silent, simply staring at the house, eyes slightly glazed over.
"You alright there Simon?" Danny asked, nudging him.
Simon jumped slightly. "Yeah, I'm fine," he answered nervously.
"So," Ruby rubbed her hands together. "Who wants to go in first?"
"Don't you?" I grumbled. I wanted to go home. It wasn't the house itself that made me feel nervous, nor even the fact that it was night. The night was beautiful, the sky was clear and the stars and crescent moon could be seen clearly. Not the typical horror movie scenario.
Something was still nagging at me. The whole escapade was a bad idea.
"How about you go in first?" Ruby suggested with a smirk. "After all, what have you got to be worried about?"
I glared at her. "Oh, I don't know. How about lurking creeps or falling through rotten floorboards to my sudden death? Why doesn't our intrepid leader go first?"
"No, no you first, I insist." Oh, she insisted, did she?
She only grinned. It felt like a trap.
I put on what must have been a very obviously fake smile. "It would be my pleasure." I told her, holding my head high.
"Carrie…" Simon murmured nervously. "Be careful." I glanced back at him. He wasn't staring at me exactly, rather, he was staring past me, at the freaky looking house, a concerned expression on his face. In contrast, Danny was practically bouncing with excitement.
"Go on then." Ruby said, and I could hear amusement in her voice. What she was amused at however, I wasn't entirely sure.
If this had been some sort of horror film, there would have been some suspense, a dramatic lead up to the lurking ghoul or ghost.
My life didn't quite work that way. I'd barely passed the threshold of the house, when I caught sight of a figure lurking at the end of the hallway. I blinked, but the figure just stared at us. No, not us. It was staring at me.
"What's wrong Carrie?" Ruby asked, amusement evident in her voice. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
Couldn't she see it? Ruby was a ghost fanatic, surely she could see something? She would take advantage of it and try to scare the rest of us. Ruby lived for the screams of the terrified. Actually Ruby was a little psychotic and in that moment, I was completely re-evaluating my friendship choices.
I pointed up ahead where the outline of a person, at least, it looked like a person, remained standing, staring at me with glowing eyes.
Ruby nudged her shoulder against mine and shoved her way past. "Look who is getting into the spirit of things!" She pronounced almost proudly.
Simon and Danny peered over my shoulder curiously, Simon frowned when he couldn't see what I was seeing. He glanced at me confused. Simon knew my adamant refusal to believe in Ruby's crap and he certainly knew there was no way I was going to play along.
It was official, I was going insane. Ruby had messed with my head one too many times.
"Ooh, creepy!" Danny laughed and bounded in past me. So much for making me go in first. What was the point?
Ruby rubbed her hands together, "okay, let's explore. Where should we go first?" She gave a malicious grin. "Up the stairs?"
"Yeah, if you want to fall through and plunge to your death," I muttered half-heartedly, still watching the eerie figure out of the corner of my eye warily. It stared back and me. I was pretty sure that it was smirking, pointed teeth barely visible beneath its lips. The glowing red eyes were fixed on me, even though they were slightly hidden beneath curtains of hair that resembled the girl from the ring, the one that crawled out from the television.
"Ugh!" I shuddered at the thought, and Simon shot me a suspicious glance.
"You alright?" He asked softly, glancing in the direction of the figure, his eyes unseeing.
I waved it off. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Just going insane, I added silently.
The front door slammed shut. Simon, who had been the last one in the house, had left it wide open.
Ruby was already halfway up the stairs with Danny right behind her. "Heh must have been a gust of wind." She laughed nervously.
"You sure it wasn't a ghost?" Danny asked completely unconcerned. Danny was lucky, he always appeared happy and content, living in his own little world.
"It could have been." Ruby answered, not sounding entirely convinced. That wasn't like her. Any opportunity to blame freaky happenings on a ghost, she took it. Perhaps I wasn't the only one who was feeling uneasy. That worried me even more. It took a lot to make Ruby nervous.
"Do we have to go up there?" Simon whispered to me nervously.
"Shall we just leave them to it?" I whispered back, motioning towards the shut door.
"You mean abandon them here?"
"We can't do that. Those two are idiots. They'll get themselves killed."
I glanced once more at the figure. It hadn't moved since the moment I had laid eyes on it. I desperately wanted to leave this creepy house and never look back. I turned my head back to the duo, who had nearly made it to the next floor and caught wind of their conversation.
"Do you think we'd be able to get a ghost catching net?" Danny was asking Ruby.
I looked at Simon with my eyebrows raised. "Would that really be so bad?"
Simon rolled his eyes and took a hold of my arm, tugging me gently up the stairs. "Come on Carrie. I'm not kidding, we can't leave them alone."
"Fine," I groaned, reluctantly letting him drag me up the creaking steps. I wondered whether the wood would even hold out long enough for us all to get up the steps. It would just be my luck to be the one who fell through the floor. Not the idiots who were previously bounding up, nor Simon who was trying to rush me upwards.
"I quite like living you know," I protested, trying in vain to pull my arm from Simon's grip.
The upstairs was just as empty as the downstairs, desolate and dirty. Ruby and Danny had already walked into the nearest open door and into a large empty room. This was the front of the house. I recognised it almost instantly by the large window that led out onto the balcony, the place where Ruby's ghost had apparently taken her last breath. Even though the window had been boarded up, moonlight was filtering through the gaps.
None of the house had exactly been radiating heat but this room was freezing, it felt several degrees colder than the rest of the house. Perhaps even colder than it had been outside.
"It's freezing in here." Danny shuddered. He was the only one to mention the temperature drop, probably because he couldn't sense the mood of the room. Even the usually brazen Ruby was quiet. She said nothing, glancing warily out of the large window as if she thought the ghost would lunge at her through it.
Her genuine worry was unsettling so I spoke up. "It is cold." I agreed. "Don't you think Ruby? Maybe it's the ghost that's making this room so cold."
"Hmm?" Ruby answered absentmindedly. "Oh, yeah. That's probably it." She managed a small, forced smile.
"You alright?" Simon asked, walking over to where she stood and rested a hand on her shoulder.
"Ooh, even Ruby's freaked out?" Danny, completely undaunted, asked curiously. "How come? Too freaky for you?"
I turned round with a sigh. The antics of my friends temporarily relived my worries. Sometimes I couldn't believe I was even friends with these weirdos.
That's when I saw it again. The figure. Downstairs I'd passed it off as my brain over imagining due to the environment. Still nobody else seemed to notice, so maybe, hopefully, that was the cause. It was just my mind playing tricks.
I stared at the figure and it stared right back at me, its eyes unblinking. My eyes trailed over it. The figure was tall but stood crouched over slightly, it's back bent at an awkward angle.
It wasn't wearing the iconic long white dress that so many freaky figures were seen wearing in the horror films. Instead, it was wearing a pair of jeans and a simple t-shirt. To my horror, it held a knife in its right hand. I gasped at the sight, causing Danny to spin round.
Simon and Ruby were still distracted, but the moment Danny turned round, his eyes landed on the figure and unlike downstairs, they didn't go right through. He stopped and for what had to be the first time in his fourteen years of life, was completely still as he squinted at the figure. Danny turned his head slightly and noticed me watching him. "You see this?"
I nodded my head. Yes, I could see it. If it wasn't a figment of my imagination then how had he not seen it before? Had he missed it the last time? He must have, he was oblivious to everything so he'd probably walked right past it.
Danny burst out laughing. "Hah! That's a great joke Carrie! Have you been in on this the whole time? Ruby? Did you set this up?"
Ruby turned at the sound of her name. "What the hell is that?"
Simon's eyes widened. Apparently everyone could see it now, and I was beginning to wonder if that was a good thing or not.
Danny only laughed. "Funny! Okay, jokes over."
"Um, Danny, I have no idea who that is." Ruby told him with a puzzled expression on her face.
The laughter ceased. "You don't?"
Ruby shook her head. "Not a clue."
"Who are you then?" Danny addressed the figure who stood at the doorway, hauntingly frozen where it stood.
At the sound of his voice, it twitched slightly, its face transforming into a smirk, teeth sharp and pointed, resembling a shark's grin.
I think in that moment, the four of us all took a step back together in one swift motion.
It took a step forward, red eyes glinting cruelly, eyes focused on me.
A shriek filled the air startling all of us but the figure. "That's a knife!" Danny cried. "It's got a knife in its hand!"
Another step. The slamming of the door. We were all trapped inside the room with a psycho and a knife.
For a split second nobody moved. Everybody held their breaths, waiting.
I had always considered myself able to handle emergency situations well. I stay calm, I think the situations through and come up with a solution before things get worse. The speed with which the figure moved didn't give any of us the opportunity to think, not that it would have made much of a difference. All of us were in a state of panic at that point.
As soon as the door was shut sealing our way out, it lunged directly at me, knife poised and aiming for my heart. I dodged but only just. Danny was still shrieking, grasping onto Ruby's arm. She pulled him with her as the four of us together ran for the door. Ruby pulled at the handle. "It's locked!" She yelled at nobody in particular.
"I could have told you that!" I yelled back.
Simon swore, "Move!"
The figure lunged again, its grin widening. The knife was still aiming for me as we jumped aside, Ruby and Danny on one side of the room, Simon and I on the other.
"Oi!" Ruby jeered. "Oi ugly, what are you doing? Calm down a second."
"Ruby, I really don't think that's a wise idea." Simon warned her.
The figure paid her no mind. It stood in the middle of the room, glowing eyes watching me knowingly. It lifted the hand without the knife pointing it towards me.
"What?" I asked it meekly. There were four of us in the room but the only one it seemed to see was me. Why? What had I ever done to this person, this creature? It certainly didn't seem human. Perhaps it was the ghost of the house after all, seeking revenge for my disbelief in its very existence.
What was I supposed to do to get the infernal thing off my back? Clap my hands and yell, "I do believe in ghosts, I do!"
Instead of clapping my hands like a lunatic, I stood there frozen to the spot, my mouth gaping open.
"You." It said, speaking so quietly I could barely hear, yet at the same time, its gravelly voice resounded through the room. It stepped towards me and I couldn't move. It took another step, raising the knife.
"What do you want with her?" Ruby shrieked.
It didn't even flinch, but Ruby's shout brought me back to earth with a start. I moved just as it leapt at me. The knife caught the sleeve of my jacket, tearing it and scratching the top layer of my skin. I had a bad feeling that if we didn't figure a way out of this and soon, I wouldn't be so lucky the next time. Not that there seemed to be any urgency to kill me, it was obvious by the look on the creatures face that it was simply toying with us.
I wracked my brains trying to recall news reports, articles, school self-defence classes, anything that would help me get a knife from the hands of a psycho who didn't even seem human, or at least fend them off until we managed to break the door down.
Ruby, always the idiot who rushed into situations without thinking things through, appeared to be on the same page or rather a few steps ahead. "Danny!" Danny flinched back in horror at the sound of her voice, cowering quickly. "Danny, try and get the door open." He stood rooted to the spot like I had been moments ago. "Now!" She shrieked, and you could only just hear a hint of panic in her voice.
Danny did as he was told and ran for the door, a wise decision or else he'd have to worry more about Ruby then the psycho with a knife and that was saying something.
Ruby's next move I can say, was a thing of beauty though certainly not the wisest idea.
Courageous stupid Ruby, leapt with all her might at the figure, aiming I assume to tackle them, instead she sprung with all her might, flying through them and crashing to the floor in a heap.
The figure, the ghost, let out a high-pitched shriek of laughter, reminding me of the feeling of nails scraping down a chalk board.
"Ruby, I concede." I said as she scrabbled to her feet and spun round gaping at fairly noticeably translucent figure. "I believe you now. There's only one problem. Why is it targeting me? I'm not a boy, and both my older siblings are alive!"
"This is a sick joke." Ruby stuttered. "That's all, a sick joke." She stood up facing the ghost, staring it down.
The ghost lunged at her. I grabbed her and pulled her back quickly. "Ruby don't play the hero!" I snarled shoving her away as it targeted me again.
"Same to you!" Simon growled.
Playing the hero was the last thing I was thinking about. "I wasn't-"
Before I could finish what I was saying, Simon grabbed me and pulled me into his arms, holding me tightly. "Ruby get the damn door open!" He yelled, momentarily stunning her. Even I was surprised. Simon was normally so calm and quiet, even in the moments the rest of us would be edging into panic.
Despite generally being calm in those situations, he was seldom helpful, preferring to keep quiet and watch the rest of us argue it out. The last time we got lost he waited until the last possible moment, before one of us could explode with anger, to say, "We're supposed to go that way." Before he casually strolled off, leaving the rest of us spluttering and jogging to catch up with him.
"Simon let go of me!" I shoved him away from me. If the ghost-thing was targeting me then my friends were at risk too. The thing I couldn't work out was, why was it targeting me?
Simon grabbed me again as the ghost began to edge towards me, pulling me behind him as if his body could shield mine.
I pushed him aside quickly. "Get off Simon!"
He ignored me and grabbed a hold again. "Ruby! This is your fault, get the damn door open!
"I am trying!" She yelled back as she kicked at the door.
"Simon!" I shoved him again, this time he held on tight and backed me against the wall so that he was protecting me completely.
"Simon, what are you doing?" I hissed and tried to push him away. He shifted slightly but stubbornly held tight.
What was this idiot doing? I ducked under his arm, he yelped and grabbed a hold of my arm and yanked me back. "Carrie don't be stupid."
"You're the one being stupid." I argued.
The silhouette of the ghost fell over us and we glanced up in surprise. Simon was still hanging on to my arm as I tried to tug it away. We froze at the sight of it regarding us silently. It seemed a lot taller than it had earlier, or perhaps that was merely how we perceived it in out fear. Its eyes darting from Simon to me, then back at Simon as if it couldn't decide which of us to target.
We could only stare, cornered, dead if it decided to act. The fact that the ghost was translucent and the thought of throwing ourselves through it had occurred to us, much like Ruby had done earlier. Unlike Ruby, the sight of the knife in its hand swayed us into staying put.
Finally, its eyes landed on Simon and something in the air shifted. Its target had changed. For the moment, I was off the hook. For a moment, Simon was the one hanging from it.
Those deep red eyes widened ever so slightly in what was possibly recognition, like it sensed something familiar in Simon the moment it stopped trying to kill us and took a good look at him. The fact that it had stopped trying to kill us for the moment was a good thing. The fact that the ghost was eyeing Simon like a tasty snack, was not.
"I know!" He hissed at me.
"Ruby? Are you having any luck with that door?" I yelled. Ruby, who was so distracted by her attempts to dislodge the door, hadn't followed our ghost friend's change of heart.
Danny called back. "I think we got it open a tiny bit more-"
"Try harder would you?"
"Why don't you give it a go? Ruby snarled back then stopped, noticing what was going on and swore.
"Little busy." I gasped back as the ghost inched forward. "Back off!" I warned it.
It grinned and lifted the knife to strike.
What happened next was so fast, I can hardly remember it happening at all. I shoved Simon away before the blade could fall and tried to move out of the way before it could catch me. I thought I had, at first with the adrenaline running through my veins. "You okay?" I asked Simon quickly before jumping out of the way of another slasher attack.
He glared at me, obviously angry about what I had done. Apparently his motto was do as I say, not as I do. I grinned back weakly, a little proud of myself when I felt a huge twinge in my side. I glanced down and found that there was blood seeping through my shirt.
"Ah," I mumbled, reaching down to pull up my shirt. There was a cut in my left side, just above my hip. Not deep enough to have caught any internal organs I imaged but not exactly shallow, my hand was quickly covered in blood. I slumped to the floor as the pain grew sharper. "Carrie!" Simon cried out in alarm at the same time the ghostly figure started to laugh, harsh and breathless.
At least it had managed to hit one of its targets. It must have felt pretty pleased with itself.
Simon yanked off his jumper and pressed it to my side. "Hold that there." He said. "It should help to steam the blood flow a bit until we can call an ambulance.
"And how exactly do you plan to call an ambulance?" I snapped. "None of us have a mobile phone, and we're trapped in a room with some sort of demon ghost!" To say that I was panicking was an understatement. Panicking was when we were all running around like headless chickens trying to get the door open. This was at least three stages past panicking.
I wasn't the only one. "Don't yell at me!" Simon shouted back. I winced as he pressed his jumper onto my side with more force. "What are we going to do?"
I glanced over his shoulder at the ghost. It was still laughing. It reminded me of those idiot villains in films that gloating about their soon to be victory but ended up being thwarted by the hero because of it.
But there was no hero here. Just a frightened group of children.
And then Ruby decided she was going to prove me wrong.
I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. Danny was still tugging at the door but Ruby had left her post and was standing directly behind her foe. I thought for a moment that she was going to try the same trick and lunge at it but then I noticed that her eyes were focused on the knife it held tightly in its hand.
If anybody could get us out of this mess, then it was most certainly Ruby. She owned more occult, supernatural and ghost related books then the local library did.
For the first time I was grateful for her obsession. If she had a more normal obsession like sports or history, we'd be in trouble. Though there was also the probability that we never would have gotten into this situation in the first place if not for her.
The ghost was still cackling, head flung back, mouth open wide so that there was a clear view of its shark like teeth. Not only did it look completely crazy, but was oblivious. It was so certain that there was no way any of us would get away that it was just standing there and laughing in the middle of the room.
Ruby was standing behind the figure, hands clenched and softly murmuring to herself, whether it was some sort of prayer or words of encouragement, I don't know.
She caught my eye, winked and before she could talk herself out of it, she jumped at the ghost, or rather, she jumped through the ghost, grabbing the knife right from its hands as she did so. While the ghost was intangible, the knife was as real as anything. Before the ghost could register what had happened, Ruby spun on her heels, knife in hand and stabbed, right at the ghost's chest.
Danny cried out in shock causing Simon to turn quickly away from me. "Oh my god." He murmured.
None of us could believe she had actually done that, especially the ghost that she had impaled.
It stopped in the middle of a grating laugh and stared at Ruby, who pulled her hand away quickly and stepped back quickly, uncertain about what might happen.
The ghost started to shriek. A horrible noise, like that of a wounded animal. Its mouth was open so wide, that if it were alive, its jaw would have been completely unhinged, you could see its jagged teeth and its mouth was a dark black hole.
All four of us recoiled as one and clasped our hands over our ears. I thought that this couldn't get much worse when it burst into flames, shrieking louder. While it seemed to last for an eternity, in reality it was only about ten seconds until the horrifying ghost vanished in the flames, leaving behind a dark cloud of smoke.
Simon and I stared at it in shock. Ruby appeared to be stunned by her own actions. Danny, always the first to recover started to clap. "Wow Ruby!" He cheered. "That was amazing!"
"Yeah." Simon murmured. "Amazing." He turned quickly back to me. "Carrie! We have to get you to a hospital."
I winced, the stabbing pain in my side twinging as I tried to sit up. "I second that." I frowned as the dark cloud started to fade. "Wait, what is that?"
Beneath the cloud, another figure started to appear.
"No," Ruby groaned. "Not another one."
"Ruby Corner tired of ghosts? I never thought I'd see the day." I mumbled, trying again to sit up only to have Simon push me carefully back down by the shoulder.
"Carrie, stay." He told me softly.
I could see already that the figure was different from the previous, terrifying ghost. This one was glowing softly and was quite obviously translucent. It didn't have glowing red eyes or a cruel grin. It was a woman with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She was floating just above the ground and when she turned, she wore a soft smile.
"Oh," she said, startled to see a group of terrified looking teenagers staring at her. "Hello!" her voice was surprisingly cheerful in the gloomy dark room that may very well have been the last thing we ever saw.
"Um, hello." Danny replied and she grinned at him.
"Is that?" I started to ask.
"No." Simon said. "It's not possible."
"What are you two mumbling about?" Ruby was staring at the new ghost with awe.
"That's my sister." Simon said, sounding choked up. "Mary-Ann."
At the sound of her name, Mary-Ann turned. Her eyes widened as they met Simon's.
"Oh," she said softly. "Simon."
"What is going on?" I could hear Simon growing frustrated, "I don't understand."
"I never thought I was going to see you again." Mary-Ann floated down to hover in front of Simon, making Ruby retreat backwards quickly.
Simon squeezed my shoulder gently before he stood up to meet his sister. "I don't understand," he repeated, sounding dazed.
"Sorry. I guess this must be a bit of a shock."
"A bit?" Simon asked. "A bit? How are you here? Were you trying to kill us?"
Mary-Ann's smiling face sobered. "No, I wasn't. What you saw wasn't me. It was a parasite. Of sorts."
"A parasite?" Ruby asked, brow furrowed. "A ghost possessing a ghost?"
"That's it!" Mary-Ann answered, still sounding far too cheerful. I think it took us all off guard. Ruby's tales of ghosts always spoke of tragedy. Of the deceased haunting the places of their death, angry for vengeance on those who had done them wrong, who had been responsible for their deaths.
Simon let out a sob. "Why are you here? In this house?"
Mary-Ann titled her head to the side, her long blonde hair shimmering. "You mean rather than being in some sort of heaven?"
"I mean why are you stuck inside this horrible house?" Simon cried. "This isn't even where you died!"
Mary-Ann looked confused. "But it is. I mean, not inside this house, but down the road-"
"This is all my fault! You were trying to find me!" I was almost glad I couldn't see Simon's face. I could hear in his voice he was crying.
"What? Simon, no. It wasn't your fault! You were only a kid!"
"But if I hadn't run off-"
Mary-Ann started to shake her head rapidly from side to side. "You don't understand! It really wasn't your fault. It wasn't an accident. That parasite was the reason I died."
"But you got hit by a car!"
"Wait I thought the ghost of this house died by falling off a balcony?"
I couldn't believe the audacity of that girl. "Ruby!" I hissed. "Not the time!"
"Rumours to make the house seem freakier then it already is." Mary-Ann answered with a shrug. "It was already haunted by another ghost. The parasite. Whoever that was, they died here a long time ago and went mad."
"And that had what to do with you?" Simon asked his sister.
"This doesn't feel like a conversation we should be listening in on." Danny murmured as he slid down the door, his energy running out. I wasn't surprised after everything that had happened.
He was right though. A reunion between Simon and his sister wasn't something that should have had an audience. The fact that Mary-Ann was a ghost was just completely surreal.
"There was something you never knew about me." Mary-Ann explained. "I am, uh was, able to see ghosts since the day I was born. Just like our father. I saw him only once after he died and he told me everything about what I am, or rather, what I was when I was alive." She stopped, waiting for a member of the audience to ask.
"And what were you?" I asked, unable to help myself.
Her bright blue eyes met mine, and she beamed at me. Her face was pale and unearthly. She was like a creature from another world. "I was a Diviner."
"A Diviner?" Ruby asked at the same time Simon jumped in with, "wait, wait, wait, like Dad?"
Mary-Ann glanced between them. "Yes, Dad was the same. It actually runs in families. Diviners have rare souls, they are much more than the average psychic. Not only can they see spirits, but control them. This unfortunately can attract ghosts. Often vengeful ones who fear being controlled and then-" She gestured to herself. "This happens. And their souls can be possessed by others."
"Just how many Diviners are there?" Ruby asked, interest piqued. "How come I've never heard of them? I mean I've heard of psychics obviously, but not this particular brand."
"Oh? Fan of the supernatural are we?" Mary-Ann looked as if she was having the time of her life with the attention she was getting from all of us. "I don't know how many. It's not like there's a society. I can tell you one thing though, there is a reason that parasite was so attracted to your little group."
"I thought that was because of that story about the ghost uh, you, searching for your lost brother, Simon. Isn't that what happened?" Ruby asked, glancing between the siblings.
Simon was still watching his sister in fascination.
Mary-Ann narrowed her eyes at Ruby, as if she was wondering what kind of crazy she was dealing with.
"That probably confused it," she answered finally. "But no, it's because it sensed a Diviner among you."
I groaned in pain or maybe annoyance.
"Who?" Ruby asked eagerly. "Tell us!"
"Oh, you'll see." She grinned, winked and…nothing happened. At least from my point of view.
Everyone else started to make noise around her while she hovered above ground, staring at me with a happy little grin.
"Where did she go?" Ruby shrieked. "Where?"
Danny gasped while Simon made a choked sound and started to twist his body round.
I watched my friends from where I was half sitting, half lying on the ground and couldn't believe their stupidity.
"She's right there." I said without thinking about what the repercussions might be, having been only half listening to the conversation.
"Where?" Simon asked in an almost pleading tone.
"Right there." I nodded my head towards her. "She never moved. Are you guys blind?" I groaned again, I really needed to get my side seen to. I was starting to feel faint.
Mary-Ann's grin widened and my friends stared at me.
I looked at them and then at the ghost. I thought about how I was the only one who had seen the figure beforehand and how, before Simon got in the way and confused it, it had been aiming for me.
"Oh no." I said and immediately passed out.
When I woke up, I was in hospital, lying in one of the many hospital beds with Simon's head resting beside me.
My side hurt like hell and I guessed I'd had to have stitches but at least I was alive and far away from that creepy house. I remembered everything that had happened the moment I opened my eyes and I knew that it hadn't been a dream. There could be no more denial. No more scepticism. Ruby and her ridiculous notion of ghosts had been correct and I, I could see them when no one else could.
Everything had changed.
I groaned as I pushed myself up with my arms.
I clasped my hands over my mouth before I could let out a shriek at the sight of Mary-Ann leaning over me. Her blonde hair fell over her shoulder. I had never thought about the features a ghost might have, but now I was wondering. Did their clothes crinkle as they moved? Did their hair blow in the wind?
"What the hell are you doing here?" I gasped out.
"Waiting for you to wake up of course!" Her tone clearly implied I had asked a stupid question. I simply gaped at her.
"What, did you think being reunited with my dear younger brother would help me move on to whatever afterlife there might be?"
"Um, no. I'm just confused about why you were waiting for me to wake up-"
"Oh!" Mary-Ann glanced towards Simon with a frown. "You know, your other two friends are in the hospital café, but your parents, they said they'd be here when you woke up."
"Yeah, they're really busy." I explained. "I'm not surprised. They'll get here eventually."
Mary-Ann continued to frown a moment longer before she stood up-well, I say stood up but she was still hovering a few inches off the ground. "Come on."
"To the bathroom."
"Why can't we talk here?"
"I don't want to wake Simon up. He's been so worried."
"Does he know you're here?"
"Fine." I sighed.
I followed the ghost of Mary-Ann into one of the patient's private bathrooms.
"Well? Why are you still here?"
I sat down on the edge of the toilet seat. "Me?"
"Diviners like you and me are rare spirits. Rare and endangered. Many ghosts, like the one you encountered earlier fear us. First moment they get," she snapped her fingers, "you're dead."
"Okay." That wasn't making me feel any better. She was basically telling me that my chances of survival were pretty low.
"Diviners, as I said before, do not merely see ghosts but can also learn to control them. It can either be through force or voluntary. Ghosts fear being manipulated through force."
"So? I'm not going to do that! I don't want anything to do with ghosts. I didn't even believe in them until earlier!"
"I know that," Mary-Ann said kindly, "but it doesn't matter to them. If spirits catch a whiff of you, that's it."
"Thank you for your comforting words." I muttered.
"They're not mean to be comforting Carrie! You have to understand the risk. I'm proof enough of that."
"So you're telling me I'm doomed to die young?" I asked her.
"I'm telling you I'm going to prevent that from happening." Mary-Ann announced proudly.
"How?" I asked after a beat of silence. "How could you do that?"
Do you remember what I said? It doesn't have to be through force. I can stay with you voluntarily, allow you to control me and use my ghostly powers if you wished to. I would stay with you for as long as you wanted and protect you."
I considered this. "And what about you?"
"Me?" She frowned. "What about me?"
"Exactly! What about you? Why would you want to stick around here and watch everyone else grow up and move on? Won't that be sad?"
Mary-Ann was sitting, hovering in mid-air with her legs crossed, her face was even with mine. She regarded me curiously. "I suppose some would see it that way," she replied, twisting a blonde curl around her finger. "I think it would be nice to watch over my brother and my family."
I leant forward on my makeshift chair. "But it's not the same as being with them."
"No, but I get peace and quiet I never got in life, eternal youth and great power. That's better than nothing."
I didn't think I would ever be able to do that without feeling envy, even anger towards the living.
Mary-Ann had been so young as well, she had such a bright future. She smiled as if she knew what I was thinking. "I want to stay because there are so few Diviners. I don't want the same thing to happen to you. And when I'm ready, I can move on."
I nodded. "Okay."
Mary-Ann leant forward so we were face to face. "Besides, it'll feel good to know that I'll be looking after my brother's girlfriend, don't you think?"
I choked on my own spit.
"At first I figured you were close friends. Friends can mean as much to someone as a romantic partner but Simon had such a dopey expression whenever he looked at you, that and while you were passed out he basically professed his undying love to you. That must have been a new step in your relationship."
"Yes." I answered drily, certain she was being overly melodramatic. "Quite a big step."
"Well either way, I think I'll be happy to stay around here for a while. After being trapped for so long it'll be nice to explain the town, see what's changed."
I couldn't work out whether Mary-Ann was either very skilled at hiding her emotions or she was just this laid-back.
I decided to get back to the previous conversation. If it meant I would be able to live than I'd happily keep her around. She was certainly a character.
"So, do I have to bind you to be or something?"
"Yes there's a contract involved to connect the two of us, but that can wait until you're out of the hospital, we'll talk more then, deal?"
"Deal." I agreed.
Mary-Ann smiled brightly at me. "I'd shake your hand but-" she waved a translucent hand in my face.
"Does Simon know you're here?"
Mary-Ann shook her head. "For the moment, no. He was too distracted by you passing out to think about me."
"I can tell him what's happening, right?"
"Later." She said. "Later, we can sort everything out."
When I walked back into the ward, Simon was awake and alert, looking around for me.
I limped in, feeling pretty pathetic. From what the nurse had told me, I had stayed unconscious as they stitched up my side. It was nothing serious, but it would have been better had I gotten to the hospital sooner. They were keeping me in overnight for observation. My parents were picking me up in the morning.
As soon as he saw me, Simon rushed over and took my hand, I could almost feel Mary-Ann smirking as she hovered behind me.
"Are you okay?" He asked as he led me back to the hospital bed. I sat on the edge, and he sat back in the chair he'd fallen asleep in. He was still holding my hand.
"I'll live." I said with a smile.
"I'm glad." Simon smiled back. Mary-Ann snorted and lay back on the bed. I gave her a quick glare, causing Simon to frown and start to ask something which I was guessing was about Mary-Ann. I never got to find out. Before he could say a word, there was a loud whoop as Ruby rounded the corner. Danny following closely behind as Ruby's ever faithful sidekick.
"Carrie's finally awake!" Ruby exclaimed so loudly that was I sure the entire hospital must be aware of my status. "We have been waiting hours for your triumphant return." She continued dramatically.
"Does she ever shut up?" Mary-Ann muttered to me. "This is the amateur ghost hunter? She should cross the element of surprise off of her list of techniques."
I had to cover a laugh, quickly turning it into a cough. I couldn't tell if I was going to be good having Mary-Ann around or not. I could imagine sitting an exam and having Mary-Ann make snide comments. I wouldn't be able to stop myself from laughing out loud.
And it wouldn't even be just Mary-Ann. I would see ghosts whenever there were ghosts to be seen. The good and the bad. If that was going to be anything like some of the horror movies I'd seen, it wasn't going to be pretty.
Or maybe there wasn't actually an abundance of ghosts like it always appeared.
Mary-Ann after all, had been the first ghost I had ever seen. At least that I could remember.
Ruby sat herself down beside me. "Carrie, I'm glad you're okay, but there is one thing I wanted to tell you."
As I sat in that hospital, surrounded by my friends, three living and one deceased, I felt lucky. No matter what happened in the future, I would be able to deal with it because I had them, whether the supernatural was involved, or it was simply the trials and tribulations of life.
These people were my family. Everything would be okay in the end.
"What did you want to tell me?" I asked.
I grinned and sent Simon a wink. He grinned back. We knew exactly what she wanted to say.
Danny started to laugh before she even had the words out. Mary-Ann leant over my shoulder.
"Ghosts exist." Ruby said proudly. "I told you so."