Characters adapted from the Lost Souls Novels by Michelle Matkins
"I can't believe you talked me into this," Vienna groaned, "and on Halloween, too."
Normally Vienna enjoyed the beautiful tree-lined streets and historic Victorian houses of Midtown Sacramento. But tonight was a different story. She and Kim were dressed in black, except for the hot pink Nike symbol on Vienna's sneakers, standing on the front porch of an old house with tan siding and white painted trim.
"What?" Kim asked, tucking a strand of long blonde hair behind her ear. "It's the perfect way for you to hone your abilities and make a little cash at the same time. Besides, Halloween is just the same as any other night."
"You know as well as I do that this is ridiculous!" Vienna complained. "I don't even know if I can help these people."
Kim shook her head. "No worries. I told them that is was your first ghostly gig and there were no guarantees we can rid them of the ghost. That's why I only charged our introductory rate of $200.00, half for you and half for me. Once we build up a reputation, we can double that."
"And why do you get half?" Vienna asked. "You're not psychic."
"No. I'm not. But I'm your best friend and sidekick. Plus, I watch all the ghost hunting shows on TV so I'm practically an expert. Come on," Kim said, lifting up the black and tan Welcome mat to retrieve the key. "Let's go inside."
Vienna glanced at the time on her watch. It was forty-five minutes past eleven and her eyes were feeling tired. She looked down the street of the nearly deserted neighborhood while waiting for Kim who was fumbling with the house key trying to unlock the front door. Moonlight trickled in through the branches of the mature trees casting spooky shadows on the ground. Vienna's anxiety grew. Not only was she about to voluntarily step foot into an allegedly haunted house, she was a nervous wreck about someone wanting to pay for her psychic talents. A part of her wanted to use her abilities to help people, but another part wanted to keep them hidden.
A sudden cool breeze came out of nowhere blowing her dark curly locks away from her face. Vienna swiped at the goose bumps it caused while thinking about her newfound psychic abilities. What really worried her the most was not having a way to turn them on and off. Generally ghosts came to her in dreams or just sort of appeared due to a trigger object. She'd never actually gone out of her way looking for them. Being hired for a job to banish a house of a ghost problem was not something she'd ever done before. This was something completely out of her league.
Some friends of Kim's mother bought this historic Victorian a few months ago and were already contemplating selling it. Supposedly, not long after moving in, the young couple awoke in the middle of the night believing someone had broken into their new home. They heard voices, footsteps, creaks, and what had sounded like doors opening and closing. Upon further investigation, they realized no one else was there, but them. Since then, every night around midnight, the noises reappeared.
Taking in a deep breath, Vienna held it as Kim finally unlocked the front door.
Crrreeaak! The door let out a long exaggerated creaking noise as it opened.
"Okay, if that wasn't a cliché, I don't know what is?" Kim laughed.
"I'm already freaked out," Vienna complained, rubbing at the goose bumps on her arms. "Turn the lights on."
"No way," Kim said, whipping out a flashlight. "We've got to do this right. If a ghost is in here, we don't want to scare it away."
"The hell we don't!" Vienna said. "That's the whole reason we're here, right? To rid them of the ghost problem. It would make my job a heck of a lot easier if flipping on a light did it."
"You're no fun!" Kim dug around in a huge leather bag that was slung over her shoulder. She'd filled it with all sorts of ghost hunting goodies she'd learned about from reality TV. Extracting another flashlight, she handed it to Vienna. Then she pulled out a ghost meter to scan for electromagnetic fields. As she'd explained to Vienna once before, since ghosts were made of energy it was theorized that an EMF detector could sense them. But Vienna preferred to do things the old fashioned way and follow her gut. She didn't need a detector to tell her when a ghost was about.
Scowling, Vienna switched on the flashlight and followed Kim into the small two story house. They stepped into the entrance way and Kim carefully shut the door behind them. Shining the flashlight down at her feet, Vienna looked at the burgundy Oriental rug covering the hardwood floor and then over to the antique coat rack in the corner of the room. Kim scurried past her.
"Check this out!" Kim called from the living room. Startled, Vienna almost dropped her flashlight. She wondered if Kim found something on her ghost meter.
"Won't using loud voices scare the ghosts away?" she asked.
Not noticing the hint of sarcasm, Kim shined her light on a 72" flat screen television. "Look at the size of that screen! Takes up the entire wall! I'd never have to go to a movie theater again."
"Looks a bit out of place, don't you think?" Vienna walked around the room, shining her light on the furnishings. Her footsteps creaked eerily on the wooden floorboards. The television, surround sound system, and black leather couch were contemporary and clashed with the antique side table and porcelain tea set positioned beneath the window overlooking the front lawn.
"Some of the things were here when the Henderson's bought the house," Kim explained. "I was told they found all kinds of stuff in the attic."
"Like what sort of stuff?"
"I don't know." Kim shrugged. "My Mom said they found antiques."
"Anything on your meter yet?"
"No, not yet. I'm gonna check out the kitchen and then head upstairs." Kim tapped on the screen of the ghost meter to see if it was working. The little red needle hadn't moved. "I'll let you know if I find anything."
"Okay. I'll catch up to you in a bit." For some reason Vienna felt drawn to the tea set. She wasn't sure why, but there was just something about it. It was so dainty and inviting. She had to touch it. Picking up a beige teacup with delicate hand painted blue flowers by the handle, Vienna flinched. A cold breeze caressed her cheek. Frightened, she spun around and looked for the source of the cold air. Her first thought was the window. Being that this was an older home, she thought it would be a logical explanation. Holding her hand up to it, she frowned. She didn't feel anything. The window had been modernized and replaced with a dual pane one. Looking up and not seeing a vent in the ceiling or walls, Vienna had no other explanation. She was just about to set the teacup back on the table when she heard a woman humming.
Vienna took a few steps toward the sofa when the scent of fresh baked cookies wafted on the air, and the room lit up in a warm glow as if the lights had been turned on. The flat screen television set and modern furniture were replaced with a floral sofa with delicate wooden legs. A coffee table on an oval shaped rug was in front of it and an oil painting of a farm house on the wall. A little girl around the age of five in a soft pink dress, white socks folded down with ruffles, and a shiny new pair of Mary Jane's sat in the center of the sofa. Her feet dangled over the side because her legs weren't quite long enough to reach the floor.
Vienna still had the teacup in her hand and walked toward the little girl. The matching tea set was on the coffee table next to a plate of freshly baked cookies. The little girl looked up at her and smiled. Startled by this, Vienna almost dropped the cup, but regained her grip on the handle at the last second. She could hear the humming coming from the kitchen.
"Is that your mother singing?" Vienna asked.
The little girl nodded. Vienna wasn't sure how, but she instantly knew her name was Rowena.
Suddenly a loud slamming noise jerked her back to the present. Vienna spun around, shining her flashlight in the dark room. She was standing in the living room staring at a vacant black leather sofa. Realizing she still had the teacup in her hand, she hurried over to the small table in front of the window and set it back down.
Vienna could hear footsteps. "Kim?" she called, making her way over to the staircase. She shined her flashlight up the stairs. "Kim?"
Kim didn't answer.
Vienna crept up the wooden steps.
"Kim?" she asked again when she reached the top. There were three doors in the hallway. Two of them were closed. Vienna opened the one at the top of the stairs and peeked inside. It was a bathroom. She then shined her light at the open door to the room on her right. She spotted a desk with a computer and a bookcase. It was a bedroom that had been converted into an office. The door to the left of the staircase was closed. Vienna walked over to it and turned the knob. It was locked.
"Kim?" she called as she tapped on the door. "Kim! Are you in there?"
"Vienna!" Kim shrieked. The door handle jiggled as Kim tried to open it. "I can't get out! The door slammed behind me!"
Vienna gripped the handle and jerked the knob. It wouldn't turn. She leaned against the door and pushed. Still it wouldn't budge. "Is it locked?"
"There's no lock on the handle."
"Okay, turn on a light. You'll be able to see the door better."
"I can't!" Kim cried. "I tried. The switch doesn't work. There's something wrong with it. And… and… the ghost meter was spiking like crazy right before my flashlight died!"
"Don't panic," Vienna calmed. "Just hang on. I'll get you out."
Just then Vienna heard footsteps on the stairs. She let go of the brass doorknob and shined her flashlight at the staircase. "Who's there?"
No one answered.
"What is it?" Kim asked. "Is someone out there? Vienna?"
"Shhhh!" Vienna hushed. She tiptoed to the staircase and quietly went down a few of the stairs. Gripping the railing, she stopped and listened. Silence.
Then, out of nowhere, a shadow that was blacker than black, raced up the stairs. Vienna squeezed her eyes shut as the shadow zoomed through her body, blasting her with ice cold air, chilling her to the bone. Opening her eyes, Vienna spun around and watched it whiz through the door into the room that Kim was locked in.
A sudden shrill scream pierced her ears.
"Kim!" Vienna screamed, running up the stairs. She banged on the bedroom door. "Kim! Are you all right?"
"Vienna!" Kim shrieked. "Something's in here with me!"
"Is it hurting you?" Vienna envisioned unspeakable things happening on the other side of the door. Terror gripped her heart. "Kim!" she squeaked. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. That wasn't me screaming. But something bad is happening in here. Please, get me out!" Kim shook the door handle. "Hurry!"
"Don't you have something in your bag of ghost hunting goodies that'll help?"
"I don't think a voice recorder or a flashlight with dead batteries will help me any!"
"Okay. Get away from the door!"
Vienna took in a deep breath and rammed the door with her shoulder. She winced. She wondered why they made it look so easy in the movies. Frowning, she decided to save her shoulder and try something else. She looked at her sneakers and had an idea.
"I'm coming in! Stand back!" she yelled and kicked the door as hard as she could just beneath the doorknob. The door made a cracking noise, but still didn't open. She repositioned herself to kick again and could hear a woman sobbing. There was a struggle taking place in the room. She could hear gasps and heavy breathing.
"Hang on, Kim!" With all the strength she could muster, she side kicked the door, and to her relief the molding around the doorjamb splintered beneath the force. Vienna grabbed the door and wrenched it open. She swept the beam of her flashlight around the room. Kim was huddled on the floor with her back pressed against the wall and her knees drawn up to her chest. "You okay?"
Kim nodded. "Yeah, thanks. Just kinda creepy in here…you know…"
"Yeah, I know." She helped her friend to her feet and then heard a sobbing noise from behind. Vienna and Kim spun around. Vienna shined her light at the source of the noise and it ended. "I swear this is totally insane!"
"Tell me about it," Kim said. "I was locked in here with it."
"Oh my God, what is that?" Kim asked. She was now clutching Vienna's arm.
"Sounds like a body being dragged down the stairs."
"Yeah," Kim grimaced. "That's what I thought."
Kim stayed close to Vienna as they rushed from the bedroom following the noise. They raced down the stairs and ended up in the living room. It disappeared.
A little girl's voice wept from somewhere upstairs, "Mama… Mama…"
Then, there was silence.
After a moment, they both let out a sigh of relief. It was over. Vienna could feel the deep foreboding dark energy that had surrounded them only a moment ago, lift.
"So, what do you think?" Kim asked keeping her voice low. "Can you get rid of the ghosts?"
"What?" Vienna lifted an eyebrow at her. "You think I'm a miracle worker? This place is nuts! You couldn't pay me to live here."
"Well," Kim let out a nervous laugh, "I guess we can turn the lights on now. The show's over. I'd say it's obviously all residual. From what I can gather, a woman was killed and the dark energy made an imprint on the house. Not much you can do about a residual haunt. The Henderson's need to either learn to live with their fun little show every night or move."
"No," Vienna said, shaking her head. "It's not all residual. The woman wasn't the only one that died that night."
Kim chuckled apprehensively, "What do you mean?"
"We're not alone. Rowena is here."
"Who's Rowena?" Kim asked. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"A little girl. I can feel her," Vienna said. "The woman that was murdered was her mother. Rowena was murdered, too."
"Oh, no," Kim said. "That's so sad. Why is she still here?"
"She's waiting for her mother to come back. I believe there's an object here she's attached to."
"You mean, like a trigger object?" Kim asked. "Something that's sentimental to her?"
"Yes. I believe it's probably something that the Henderson's dug out of the attic when they moved in." Vienna looked around the room and glanced at the porcelain tea set. "I know what it is."
"You need my help?"
"I think it's best if I do this alone. I don't want to frighten her."
Kim nodded and made herself comfortable on the couch. "Call me if you need me."
Vienna wandered over to the little side table beneath the window. She picked up the same teacup she'd been drawn to earlier. She walked through the living room to the kitchen and then out the back door. She stepped down the three cement steps and wandered into the small backyard. She sat down in the grass, beneath a tree, and leaned against the trunk. In her hands she held the teacup. She closed her eyes and thought about the little girl. The early morning's air felt crisp and cool on her face as she waited.
After a few moments, Vienna was no longer alone. She could feel the light tingling of her skin as the little girl appeared. Vienna opened her eyes.
"It's my mother's," Rowena said, kneeling down next to her.
Vienna nodded. "I know. She loved it very much."
"I miss my mama." A tear rolled down the little girl's cheek and shined silver in the moonlight.
"She misses you, too."
With her hands, Vienna dug a small hole in the cold soft soil. She wasn't sure why she was doing this, but it seemed right. She felt she needed to bury the past in order for Rowena to be able to go home. She dug in the ground until the hole looked about the right size for the trigger object. Rowena watched as Vienna carefully placed the teacup inside.
"I'm releasing you from this life," Vienna said and gently began to cover it up. "It's time for you to go home."
When she finished, she looked up. A beam of bright shimmering light streamed down from the heavens above. Rowena looked up at the sky. "Mama? Mama!"
Vienna shielded her eyes and tried to see what the little girl could see. She looked up into the light but could only see the glorious brightness. It was warm, inviting, and filled Vienna's soul with happiness. The little girl got to her feet and smiled. She no longer needed the teacup to remind her of her mother. She reached her hand out toward the light as if waiting for her mother to take hold of it. Then, in a flash, she was gone.
Tears of joy clouded Vienna's eyes as she pictured in her mind's eye the little girl being met with the loving embrace of her mother. She smiled. Maybe taking on ghostly gigs from time to time wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.