“Nope nope nope,” I repeated as I got to my feet. I set my sights on the car and started walking toward it.
Eyes front, Elizabeth. Ignore the house at your back. Ignore the hard-packed dirt under your boots, when by all rights it should be mud and scrubby weeds and the occasional styrofoam soda cup. Ignore the smells in the air, the ozone and that hot, sour stench from a paper mill that’s been gone for decades. Ignore the way the patrol car seems to shimmer and how there are no grass stalks whisking against your hands like there were before. Ignore the fine hairs standing at attention on the back of your neck. Ignore the this-is-so-weird feeling that makes your stomach clench and your knees rubbery. If this was a short story, you could call it The Werewolf and the I’ll Wait in the Car. The Werewolf and the Hell to the No. The Werewolf and the Fuck You, I’m Sitting This One Out.
So thinking, I speed-walked directly into an invisible wall.
I landed on my ass for a third time this night (still not the record), my nose trickling blood, dust puffing around me. I scrambled to my feet, my heart sinking into my stomach. The car was so close. I reached a hand out, fingers trembling. I groaned when my fingers encountered something solid. I flattened my palm against whatever it was. It was cold, had a bit of a give to it. Like Jell-O.
I swiped my other hand across my still-tender nose. Well, maybe not exactly Jell-O.
I scuffed my right foot forward. It met the same resistance.
I was giving serious thought to drawing my gun and trying to shoot my way out, when David got out of the car. He switched on his flashlight and speared my chest with the beam.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I was so close to him, maybe ten yards. I suck at judging distance. I held my hands up, pressed them against the barrier. “There’s this–”
“Holy shit, is that the house?” He swept the light away from me and onto the Sangers’ front porch. “What did you do to make it appear?”
“Me? The hell, I didn’t do anything. I tripped and fell back and there it was. Listen, Mercy, I can’t get out. It’s like in The Simpsons Movie, there’s a–” he walked past me with no problem, eyes wide, mouth agape, and what the– “fuck is this?”
I felt for the barrier again. It was still there. I stepped to my left, in David’s wake, and tried again. Still solid Jell-O.
I spun around and broke into a run. I tackled him around the waist, just shy of the first step. We sat up at the same time. He stared at me. “What the hell.”
I nonchalantly brushed dirt off my shirt front. “I’m not letting you go in there.”
“It’s a ghost house.”
“Full of ghosts.”
“So . . .”
“Ghosts can’t hurt us.”
“I think you’re forgetting Poltergeist, Mercy. And Paranormal Activity.”
“Number one, they’re fiction. Number two, Paranormal Activity was demons.”
I drew my knees to my chest and hugged them. I’d left my jacket in the car, because having it on had made me drowsy, and I hadn’t expected to be taking this long of a restroom break. “How about that spiritualist guy that was found in the road minus his head, then? From your book?”
“The same book that you said was full of bullshit?”
I leaned to the left and regarded the front door. There was a small pane of colored glass set in its center. “In light of recent events, I am revising my opinion.”
He sighed. “Well. I want to see what happens.”
“David, there’s a house behind you that wasn’t there five minutes before. Isn’t that enough? Take a frickin’ picture and Instagram it.”
“Ooh, good idea.” He dug out his cell phone and frowned. “Hey, check yours. Mine’s jacked up.” He turned it around. The screen was white, devoid of apps and icons and all the other crap.
Mine was the same. “In the movies, one of us would be wearing a watch, and the hands would be spinning or something,” I said, putting the useless phone back in its pouch on my belt.
We got to our feet, my body tense, ready to take him down again if he made a move for the house. But he seemed content to stand there and move the flashlight beam across the boards and shingles.
When I heard the noise, I reached out and grabbed his arm, stopping the light. “Shh, you hear that?” I whispered.
“That scraping? Yeah, I–”
Merllyn Sanger came around the corner of the house. He dragged the ax by its handle, the blunt end of its head scraping along the ground, leaving a narrow track. He laboriously climbed the three steps to the porch, his head lowered, the ax bouncing against the edge of the boards. He stood in front of the door. I heard a click. The door swung inward. He picked the ax up and stepped inside the house. The door stayed open.
David made it onto the porch in two quick leaps. I followed, muttering curses.