I didn’t want to say the bad thing; I didn’t want to acknowledge its name. “It crawled down the walls,” I added to quell his dubious expression.
He rubbed at his chin. “No, it went across from the room with the light to the room across the hall.” I stared at him and he shrugged uneasily. “What? That’s what I saw.”
“But you heard the voice, the little boy.”
“That I did, kiddo.”
“All right, hold on,” Rebecca said. “You said a light turned on upstairs and there might be a dog loose, and you heard the voice of a young boy but you didn’t see him.”
“More or less,” I conceded, even though it sounded a lot tamer than it was.
“Well, bloody hell,” she said, hugging herself. She looked down the hallway to the staircase. “I don’t exactly feel safe staying here if there’s someone else in the building with us.”
“Are you talking ghosts now or people?” I asked carefully.
“People,” she said loudly. “Ghosts don’t bother me but people do. How do we know there isn’t some homeless person, some vagrant, living in the building? They could have a dog. They could set up a nice little area for themselves upstairs and no one would know.”
“I know what I saw,” I said. “It wasn’t a dog.”
“But you don’t know for sure,” she said. “Your eyes play tricks on you, you know that. That’s why you and Dex didn’t see the same thing.”
“I also know ghosts play tricks on me too.”
Dex waved his camera in the air. “I have the footage, we can take a look and then figure out what to do. Either way, it’s eleven o’clock at night. If we wanted to, we could leave this place and go stay at the motel.”
“No, we can’t,” I reminded him. “We’re locked in here, remember? Carl has the keys, we don’t.”
“Baby, there are emergency exit doors on either end. We can leave. We’ll just probably get in major shit for it.”
“We’ll probably get in major shit already for tripping the motion detector,” I muttered. I pushed my fingers into my forehead and then looked at Rebecca. “Okay, boss. What do you suggest we do? I can tell you what I’m not doing and that’s going back upstairs. But I’m also not staying down here by myself. If you want to go explore with the camera and the light by yourself, you go right ahead.”
“Okay,” she said, holding out her hands. “Give those to me.”
I held the light to my chest and out of her reach. “Rebecca…I was kind of kidding.”
“Well, I’m not. You guys saw something. I want to see what I can find. They’ll already know tomorrow that we were upstairs so we should try and abuse it while we can. I want to go upstairs. Alone.”
I looked at Dex. “She’s crazy.” She was crazy.
“I know,” she said smartly, looking at both of us. “I really am not in the right frame of mind now, let alone lately, but dealing with this sounds preferable to thinking about other things, so if you two will please indulge me.” She made a grabby motion with her hands.
“It could be dangerous,” Dex said, though I could tell from his tone that he was relenting.
She pursed her lips. “Maybe I feel like living life on the wild side.” She snatched the camera out of his hands and then took the light from me. She fixed a few settings on the camera then nodded at us. “If I’m not back in thirty minutes…just wait longer.”
We watched as she walked off down the hall.
“I should really go after her,” Dex said, making a move to follow.
“Don’t you fucking dare, Dex,” I said as I grabbed the back of his coat. “Don’t you dare leave me here alone. You can’t do that to me.”
His expression softened as he saw how panicked I was. “I won’t. I’m sorry. I’m just worried about her.”
“Well, so am I!” I said. “We know what we saw. We’ll kind of.” The more I started thinking about it, maybe it had been a trick of my eyes. Maybe it really was a dog. Maybe there really was some squatter upstairs. Funny thing was, I hoped it wasn’t. When it came to Rebecca, ghosts were less of a threat.
“This has been one hell of a first night, hasn’t it,” I muttered.
“You can say that again.” He grabbed my arm. “No use waiting for her out here. Let’s get ready for bed and by the time we’re ready to fall asleep, she’ll be back.”
And if she isn’t? I thought. What then?
Even though sleep was almost unheard of, Dex and I did get into our pajamas and settled in for bed. He walked me over to the washroom where he stood guard as I did my business because I was too chicken shit to go alone. By the time we got back to the nurses’ quarters and settled into our beds—I decided to squeeze in with Dex on one bed that night—Rebecca returned.
Naturally she appeared in our doorway like a shadow figure, nearly prompting me to scream before I realized it was her.
Dex and I sat up, and I nearly fell off the bed in doing so.
“What happened?” he asked.
She sighed and came into the room, shutting the door behind her with a click. She plopped down on a wheelie chair across from us and put the camera and light on the counter. “Well, I didn’t see anything weird. Unusual, maybe. The light was on in the room when I went. It was a room with an old, moldy desk and a desk lamp. The lamp was on…no idea how, I guess they do have electricity up there after all. I didn’t see any signs of habitation though. Maybe that’s on the other floors, I don’t know. But there were no moving shadows or children’s voices.”
“But you believe us,” I reminded her.
She nodded, staring off into space, her eyes looking tired. “Again, yes Perry, I believe you. I heard the music in the tunnel earlier. I believe there’s something about this place….you can definitely feel it on that floor, too. It’s like the air pressure has changed or something. But did I see anything, experience anything weird aside from that lamp? No. Shall we watch the footage?”
“You know what,” I said, “I don’t think that’s the last thing I should see at night. How about we look it over when it’s daylight?”
I had to admit, the fact that nothing unusual happened to her made me feel a million times better. Still, even after she got settled in for the night, I got out of bed and shoved a chair under the doorknob. If something, or someone, really wanted in the room, it wouldn’t keep them out. But it made me feel saner. As did Dex’s strong, protective arms around me.
I just wished I had something similar to apply to my head, some way to prevent my mind from dwelling on dark figures crawling on all fours, or ghost children chasing after a ball.
It felt like the sun was coming up by the time my weary body finally found sleep.
It’s funny how different things can feel by the light of day, let alone look. Our alarm clock was Davenport rattling the door and trying to get in. I actually fell out of bed and onto the floor, trying to get up in a panic, my body confused from lack of sleep and the terror fresh in my mind.
Yet the moment I opened the door to sunlight streaming in through the halls and Davenport’s disapproving face, I felt like whatever we dealt with last night was nothing compared to this woman’s wrath.
“Pardon my intrusion,” she said, disdainfully eying my clingy t-shirt that my breasts were high beaming through. “But I need a word with the three of you. Since you’re staying on my property, I take it you won’t mind.”
She pushed past me and walked over to the beds where a shirtless Dex was sitting up, his crazy bed hair pointing every which way, and Rebecca pulling her covers up to her collarbone.
“I don’t want to say this more than once, but it’s too late for that,” she said.
“And good morning to you too,” Dex said with a groan. “Are you sure we can’t have coffee before the lecture?”
She put her hands together. I noted she was wearing another brown suit that made her look like a giant Hershey’s Kiss. “So then you know what I’m about to talk to you about. This morning as I was getting ready for work, I got an alert to my email saying that the motion detector on the camera had been tripped. Imagine my surprise when I saw footage of the two of you,” she looked from Dex to me as I rubbed my bruised tailbone, “careening down the staircase like you were on fire.”
I gulped. “We’re sorry, we—“ Rebecca started.
She raised her nose in the air and went on as if Rebecca hadn’t said anything. “I don’t even know how you two managed to get up there without tripping the recording the first time. I never got an email about that.” I shot Dex a look to keep quiet. We didn’t want to tell her we’d been in the body chute. “What on earth were you guys doing up there without my permission?”
“We are so sorry,” I said, coming forward with my arms across my chest. “We were only on the second floor, We just thought we heard something, like someone was here. We just wanted to look around.”
She cocked her ugly eyebrow. “And? Did you find anything?”
“Sorta,” I said, though now I could see Dex was giving me a look to keep my mouth shut. I guess he didn’t want us sharing our footage with her just yet. “We thought we saw a dog.”
“A dog?” she repeated. She seemed to mull that over. “I don’t know anything about any dogs. But this building does house raccoons on occasion. I’m sorry if it gave you a fright.”
That was no damn raccoon, I thought, trying to convey my thoughts to Dex. We knew raccoons.
“Still,” she said, clearing all the sympathy out of her throat, “you know I don’t want anyone up there without a staff member present. This could be a large liability for us. Do I make myself clear? Those floors are off limits unless I give you permission otherwise.”
Dex raised his hand straight up into the air like an eager school kid.
She narrowed her eyes. “What is it?”
“Can we have permission?”
She sighed like her patience was near depletion. “You have your tour with the historian in two hours. I suggest you film what you can. If you want to do more after that, then we’ll talk.” She marched across the room toward the door then looked over her shoulder at us. “Coffee is in the teacher’s lounge.”
She left the room just as I remembered something. “Dex,” I hissed. “Did you remember to get all the beers out of the staff fridge?”
“Fuck!” he exclaimed and popped out of bed. He ran out the door and down the hall in just his boxer briefs. His hard, beautiful body got a cry of surprise and look of admiration from an early-bird teacher who had just walked in the main doors. I could only hope he wasn’t sporting his usual morning wood, though I’m sure our encounter with Davenport had officially frozen his balls.
I looked over at Rebecca. “How did you sleep?”
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